Following a high-stakes, four-day visit to China, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expressed satisfaction with her “constructive visit” and the “very substantive series of meetings” she had with Chinese officials. The discussions focused on various topics such as the global economy, export controls, and national security. Yellen’s trip is part of ongoing efforts to stabilize US-China relations, which have been strained in recent months. This visit closely follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China last month. The positive outcomes of these visits could potentially pave the way for a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi in September and the APEC leaders’ summit in San Francisco in November. It is worth noting that the last meeting between the two leaders took place in Bali last year.
Importance of Person-to-Person Relationships
Yellen emphasized the importance of establishing personal relationships with the new economic team in Beijing. She believes that open channels of communication are crucial for addressing concerns and maintaining a healthy economic relationship between the two nations. In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Yellen stated, “I do think my trip has been successful in forging those relationships and creating the opportunity for a deeper set of more frequent contacts at our staff levels.”
Complex Task in Beijing
Yellen’s task in Beijing was complex and multifaceted. She raised several concerns, including national security and the intimidation faced by American companies. However, she also sought Chinese cooperation on various issues, such as climate change and debt distress. Yellen’s primary goal was to prevent unintended escalations that could harm the overall economic relationship between the US and China.
One specific issue Yellen addressed was Beijing’s recent imposition of export curbs on chipmaking metals and compounds. China’s Ministry of Commerce claimed to have provided advance notice to the US and Europe. In October, the US implemented comprehensive regulations aimed at restricting exports of crucial chips and semiconductor tools to China. Yellen expressed her concerns about the export controls and highlighted the contrasting approach taken by the US. She explained that the US measures were specifically targeted to address national security concerns, whereas it remains unclear whether the Chinese export controls serve the same purpose.
Yellen acknowledged that the lack of contact between senior officials and the general public of both countries in recent years, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has created a situation where misunderstandings can arise. However, she also noted that China is actively taking steps to address concerns about its slowing economy, presenting opportunities for American businesses to thrive. Nevertheless, national security remains a priority for the US. Yellen stressed the need to protect advanced technologies with military applications and assured that the US will continue to act accordingly.
Secretary Yellen’s visit to China marked a significant step towards stabilizing US-China relations. The constructive talks and establishment of person-to-person relationships provide a foundation for ongoing communication and cooperation. While challenges remain, particularly regarding national security and export controls, there are opportunities for economic collaboration and mutual success. By addressing concerns and maintaining open channels of communication, the US and China can navigate their complex relationship and work towards a more stable and prosperous future.