In Beijing, Blinken raises US concerns about China’s support for Russia

In Beijing, Blinken raises US concerns about China’s support for Russia
In Beijing, Blinken raises US concerns about China’s support for Russia

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) gestures as he holds talks with China's Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing April 26, 2024. — Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP pic

BEIJING, April 26 — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns today about China’s support for Russia’s military, one of the many issues threatening to sour the recent improvement in relations between the world’s biggest economies.

Blinken raised the matter during five-and-a-half hours of talks with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing, the latest high-level contact between the countries that have reduced the acrimony that pushed ties to historic lows last year.

“The Secretary discussed concerns about PRC support to the Russian defence industrial base,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, adding the two sides also discussed Taiwan, the South China Sea and other flashpoints.

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The PRC is short for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

Despite its “no limits” partnership with Moscow, China has steered clear of providing arms for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

But US officials warn its companies are helping the weapons industry with an unprecedented build up that has helped to turn the tide of the war. For example, bigger machine tool imports from China have helped Russia increase its ballistic missile production, the officials say.

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The US officials warn such assistance risks hurting the broader bilateral relationship, even as ties stabilise after being hit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022 and the US downing of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon in February 2023.

China has said it has not provided weaponry to any party, adding that it is “not a producer of or party involved in the Ukraine crisis”. However, it says that normal trade between China and Russia should not be interrupted or restricted.

Steadying the ship

As the pair started talks, Wang told Blinken that the “giant ship” of the China-US ties had stabilised, “but negative factors in the relationship are still increasing and building”.

“And the relationship is facing all kinds of disruptions. China’s legitimate development rights have been unreasonably suppressed and our core interests are facing challenges,” Wang told Blinken.

Underscoring the growing discord between the two sides, hours before Blinken landed in China on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill that included US$8 billion (RM38 billion) to counter China’s military might, as well as billions in defence aid for Taiwan and US$61 billion for Ukraine.

Wang said the US must not step on “red lines” covering sovereignty, security and development interests — an apparent reference to Taiwan, the democratically governed island that China claims as its own, and the disputed South China Sea.

Other issues on the table include US complaints about China’s excess industrial capacity, military-to-military communication, artificial intelligence, and people-to-people exchanges. The US is also pushing for progress on the curbing of China’s supply of the chemicals used to make fentanyl.

Blinken met China’s minister of public security, Wang Xiaohong, to discuss the fentanyl issue.

The agenda for the talks had been set during the November summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco and a follow up call in April.

Blinken is expected to briefly meet Xi.

Ahead of today’s talks, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen signalled that the Biden administration was not taking any options off the table to respond to China’s excess industrial capacity.

Yellen told Reuters Next in an interview in Washington that China exporting its way to full employment is not acceptable to the rest of the world. — Reuters

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