Yellen plans to visit China

Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary of the United States, is set to visit Beijing this week, marking the second high-profile visit between the world’s two largest economies in recent weeks as they strive to repair strained relations. The US Treasury Department announced on Sunday that Yellen’s visit to Beijing will take place from July 6 to July 9, which was subsequently confirmed by China’s Finance Ministry in a statement on Monday morning.

During her visit, Yellen is expected to engage in discussions highlighting the significance of both countries “responsibly managing their relationship, directly addressing areas of concern, and cooperating to tackle global challenges,” as stated in the Treasury Department’s announcement.

This visit follows the recent trip of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing in June, where he met with China’s President Xi Jinping, leading diplomat Wang Yi, and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. This meeting resulted in an agreement to stabilise bilateral ties and prevent the escalation of rivalry into conflict. Despite China’s vocal protest over US President Joe Biden referring to Xi as a “dictator,” analysts believe it had little impact on the efforts to improve relations.

In Beijing, Yellen is scheduled to hold meetings with senior Chinese officials and representatives from leading US companies, as reported by a Treasury official. While specific details were not disclosed, a second administration official indicated that Yellen is likely to meet with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng.

Among the key areas of concern for discussion is China’s recently enacted national security and espionage law, which came into effect on July 1. The law’s potential implications for foreign and US firms, along with the broader investment climate and economic relationship, have raised concerns.

The US-China relationship has experienced strains over various issues, including disputes over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, trade and supply chain matters, and the status of Taiwan. Recently, tensions were further heightened by the discovery of an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over the US, which was later shot down.

Despite addressing national security interests and human rights, US officials emphasise that their actions are not aimed at gaining economic advantages over China. Instead, Yellen’s visit is aimed at establishing more substantial channels of communication for the longer term.

Regarding the significance of discussions with the second-largest global economy, Wendy Cutler, vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, highlighted that they are crucial for promoting stronger global economic growth and addressing the mounting debt challenges faced by the Global South.

On Beijing’s side, officials are seeking concrete steps from the US to demonstrate that the objective is not to completely decouple from China or hold it back. Blinken’s reception in Beijing has been seen as a symbolic indication of warming relations.

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