NEW YORK—Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with China’s deputy leader, Han Zheng, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 18 in what marks the latest top-level exchange between the world’s two largest economic powers.
"The world expects us to responsibly manage our relationship," Mr. Blinken said in brief remarks at the beginning of his meeting with Mr. Han. "The United States is committed to doing just that.
"From the perspective of the United States, face-to-face diplomacy is the best way to deal with areas where we disagree, and also the best way to explore areas of cooperation between us."
The meeting, taking place a day after national security adviser Jake Sullivan held an unannounced meeting with China’s most senior diplomat, Wang Yi, in Malta, was part of the administration’s efforts to engage with senior Chinese officials to improve communications amid strained bilateral ties.
Mr. Blinken made his first trip to China as secretary of state this June in a push to revive military talks. He was followed by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and climate envoy John Kerry.
“It's a good thing that we have this opportunity to build on the recent high-level engagements that our countries have had to make sure that we're maintaining open communications and to demonstrate that we are responsibly managing the relationship between our two countries,” Mr. Blinken said.
Mr. Han said that “China–U.S. relations face many difficulties and challenges” and that he expects the United States to “show sincerity” in handling U.S.–China relations.
"The world needs a steady and sound China–U.S. relationship,” he said in a speech.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Mr. Blinken “emphasized that the United States will continue to use diplomacy to advance U.S. interests and values and to discuss areas of difference.”
He also said that Mr. Blinken “explored potential areas of cooperation and advocated for progress on shared transnational challenges” and touched on issues from the Russia–Ukraine war to North Korea’s “provocative actions.”
Aside from Chinese leader Xi Jinping himself, Mr. Wang, China’s foreign minister and head of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP's) Central Foreign Affairs Commission, usually addressed the annual U.N. gathering in New York in the past.
Mr. Wang stepped in for former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in July after the latter went missing from the public eye with little explanation—one of three top Chinese officials dismissed in succession in just two months’ time. Li Shangfu, the country’s defense minister, has vanished for nearly three weeks and missed at least one meeting with foreign counterparts.
Taiwan was a topic that came up in both days' U.S.–China meetings, with Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Blinken stressing the importance of “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Mr. Wang, as a response to Mr. Sullivan on Sept. 17, repeated the assertion that the Taiwan issue is the “first red line that cannot be crossed,” warning the U.S. side to not support Taiwan independence.
“They've continued in a very dangerous and irresponsible way—the CCP—to ratchet up their pressure, their provocation, and we cannot allow that to stand,” Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, told The Epoch Times, noting that the provocation serves as another reminder of the need of U.S. support.
He also noted that he'll continue to advocate more military support to Taiwan so that “they can continue to uphold their democracy and their values" in the face of the CCP aggression.
Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.), who chairs the Subcommittee on Indo-Pacific at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, meanwhile questioned whether engaging with Beijing will yield results for the United States.
“The CCP’s threats against Taiwan should not be taken lightly by the United States," she told The Epoch Times. "The Biden administration’s repeated concessions to simply get a meeting with CCP are emboldening the CCP to continue its reckless behavior.”
“We have to continue to support our partners in Taiwan. We have to continue to make crystal clear that any action that undercuts their safety and security is unacceptable.”
President Joe Biden has expressed disappointment that Mr. Xi skipped the G20 leaders’ gathering in India, but the president said that he was “going to get to see him.”
The next likely opportunity for such a talk is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November. China’s top security agency, the Ministry of State Security, has recently hinted that the prospect of any such meeting would depend on the United States "showing sufficient sincerity."