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In a bid to ease tensions, Blinken meets with China's President Xi Jinping

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrapping up the first visit to China by a U.S. secretary of state in five years. He capped his trip by meeting with China's president, Xi Jinping, and then told me in an interview from Beijing that his goals centered on reopening lines of communication.

ANTONY BLINKEN: In and of itself, that's important. And it was clear coming into this trip that the relationship was unstable. And both sides recognize the need to stabilize it.

FADEL: Joining us is NPR international correspondent Emily Feng, who is covering these talks. Hi, Emily.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: So what were the issues that were at the forefront of that meeting between Blinken and Xi?

FENG: This was a wide-ranging talk. They brought up Taiwan. Blinken said he brought up concerns over violations of human rights in China, and they did reach some concrete agreements. Blinken gave a press conference after this meeting, and he explained that the U.S. and China agreed to increase the number of commercial flights between the two countries. They emphasize the importance of people-to-people exchanges and the planes that it takes to get them there. And they're looking into setting up a joint committee again to find and stop the export of fentanyl precursors. These are the ingredients behind this deadly drug that's making its way from China to the rest of the world, including the U.S. Blinken also wants the two countries to start talking at a high level again military to military. And here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BLINKEN: I think it's absolutely vital that we have these kind of communications military to military. That imperative, I think, was only underscored by recent incidents that we saw in the air and on the seas. And at this moment, China has not agreed to move forward with that.

FENG: Right. He said China did not agree to reestablish military-to-military dialogues, even after two close confrontations in the South China Sea in the last month between Chinese and U.S. military vessels, which is what he's referring to. And that is concerning.

FADEL: So that's concerning. And there are a lot of issues where the U.S. and China don't agree. There's still tariffs on U.S. and Chinese goods, export controls to China, human rights concerns. And that's just a few, right?

FENG: Yeah. And these are not going away. And both the U.S. and China emphasize this week's talks are just a potential beginning to bring some kind of equilibrium, a new coexistence between these two countries. Here's Blinken again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BLINKEN: Progress is hard. It takes time. And it's not the product of one visit, one trip, one conversation. My hope and expectation is we will have better communications, better engagement going forward. That's certainly not going to solve every problem between us - far from it. But it is critical to doing what we both agree is necessary, and that is responsibly managing the relationship.

FENG: But there's only so much cooperation that's possible. A lot of what China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, raised today in meetings - you know, the removal of U.S. export controls and sanctions on Chinese companies - these are things that U.S. policymakers are just not going to budge on.

FADEL: So he talked about - it's not going to take one visit, one trip to change things. So do we expect more talks between the U.S. and China?

FENG: Yes. The Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, agreed, after this weekend of talks with Blinken, to visit Washington, D.C. Blinken talked about expecting more U.S. visits to China and vice versa. And, again, these are concrete issues like technology competition and human rights that the U.S. and China will continue to butt heads on. But the U.S. diplomatic corps thinks it can manage those profound differences.

FADEL: NPR international correspondent Emily Feng. Thank you, Emily.

FENG: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.
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