99 Featured StoriesInterviewMagazine

Moving Forward: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Visits Beijing

In February 2023, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing was indefinitely postponed when a high-altitude balloon, equipped with Chinese technology, entered mainland United States airspace. The subsequent cooling of relations between the US and China made rescheduling the visit a challenging endeavor for both sides. Fortunately, after months of rebuilding bilateral communication from the ground up, the desire for high-level engagement between the US and China became a priority once again, with Blinken successfully visiting the People’s Republic of China in June.

Antony Blinken

Photo courtesy of US Department of State

Leading up to US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s June visit, the Biden administration tried to lower expectations of any major breakthroughs or announcements coming from the engagements expected in Beijing. The meeting between US Secretary Blinken and China’s President Xi remained unconfirmed throughout much of the lead up to the visit, being announced only an hour before taking place late on Monday afternoon. Despite the high degree of caution and hesitancy around the visit, increased high-level engagement and dialogue is vital to rebuilding trust and maintaining open channels for communication.

Secretary Blinken conducted a two-day visit to Beijing between Sunday, June 18 through Monday, June 19, during which he met with President Xi Jinping, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, top diplomat Wang Yi, and representatives from the American business community, including AmCham China Chairman Colm Rafferty.

Meeting with Foreign Minister Qin Gang


Secretary Blinken kicked off his China visit on Sunday by meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. During the over eight-hour-long meeting, the US side raised issues, including upholding the international rules-based order and facilitating people-to-people exchanges between China and the US. Following the meeting, the official press release from the US Department of State stated: “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken held candid, substantive, and constructive talks today with People’s Republic of China (PRC) State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing. The Secretary emphasized the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation.” From the Chinese side, Qin noted that US-China relations were at the “lowest point” since diplomatic ties were re-established in 1979 and “raised clear demands” on US policy toward Taiwan.

The constructive meeting also included an agreement to begin planning a reciprocal visit of Qin Gang to the US at an appropriate time. The readout released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry noted that the two sides agreed on high-level principles of engagement and dialogue, as well as expanding people-to-people and educational exchanges, increasing flights, and aiding with bilateral visits.

Meeting with Senior Diplomat Wang Yi

Monday morning

On Monday morning, Blinken met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a three-hour meeting followed by a press conference. Following the meeting, many China watchers and experts noted a shift in tone after Wang’s remarks, which were much harsher than those shared by Minister Qin Gang the day prior. According to the readout released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang blamed Washington’s “wrong perception” of China as the “root cause” of the decline in the two sides’ relations. He demanded that the US stop “suppressing” China’s technological development and hyping the “China threat”. Wang also reiterated that Taiwan is one of China’s “core interests” over which it “has no room for compromise or backdown”.

On the US side, Blinken used the meeting to underscore the need for the countries to “responsibly” manage their competition through “open channels of communication” to ensure it “does not veer into conflict,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. Blinken further stated that the US would continue to use its diplomacy to “stand up for the interests and values of the American people”. He described the talks as “candid and productive” and added that they also included discussions on potential areas of cooperation regarding shared transnational challenges.

AmCham China Chairman Colm Rafferty and Vice Chair Roberta Lipson meet with Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Burns
Photo courtesy of US Department of State

Meeting with US Business Community Representatives

Monday afternoon

Also on Monday, Blinken met with a small group of US business leaders to discuss the role private companies can play in supporting US-China relations. AmCham China Chairman Colm Rafferty and Vice Chair Roberta Lipson attended on behalf of the Chamber. During the meeting, AmCham China’s Rafferty and Lipson raised issues reported by member companies in the Chamber’s recent Flash Survey, the 2023 Business Climate Survey, and the 25th Annual Edition of the American Business in China White Paper.

Meeting with President Xi Jinping

Monday afternoon

Monday concluded with the most anticipated meeting of the trip, where Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Prior to being granted an audience with President Xi, intense media speculation arose as to whether Secretary Blinken would have the opportunity. The 30-minute meeting, held at the Great Hall of the People, was seen as key to the success of the trip.

In footage of the meeting released by state broadcaster CCTV, Xi is heard saying, “The two sides have agreed to follow through on the common understandings President Biden and I have reached in Bali.” President Xi was also reported to say, “I hope that through this visit, Mr. Secretary, you will make more positive contributions to stabilizing China-US relations.”


This article is from the AmCham China Quarterly Magazine (Issue 2, 2023). To access the entire publication for free, sign up on our member portal here.