Secretary Blinken press availability
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good evening. Slow news day, huh? I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to Ambassador Burns, to our entire Mission China, with whom I’ve had an opportunity to spend time over the past couple of days. This team serves at one of the most important posts in the world at a critical moment, and I could not be prouder of how they represent our country. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the United States has taken a series of purposeful, strategic steps – both at home and abroad – to strengthen our country and our standing around the world. We’ve made historic investments in our infrastructure, technology, industrial capacity, competitiveness. We’ve deepened our engagement and alignment with allies and partners around the world in ways that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
That’s the backdrop for the relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China – one of the most consequential in the world. Both the United States and China have an obligation to manage this relationship responsibly. Doing so serves the best interests of the United States, of China, indeed, of the world. We are clear-eyed about the challenges posed by the PRC. The United States will advance a vision for the future that we share with so many others: a free, open, stable, and prosperous world with countries upholding and updating the rules-based order that has for years safeguarded peace and security globally.
To shape that future, we start with diplomacy – including with China. I came to Beijing to strengthen high-level challenges of communication, to make clear our positions and intentions in areas of disagreement, and to explore areas where we might work together when our interests align on shared transnational challenges. And we did all of that. Here in Beijing, I had an important conversation with President Xi Jinping. And I had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions with my counterparts Director Wang Yi and State Councilor Qin Gang. I appreciate the hospitality extended by our hosts.
In every meeting, I stressed that direct engagement and sustained communication at senior levels is the best way to responsibly manage our differences and ensure that competition does not veer into conflict. And I heard the same from my Chinese counterparts. We both agree on the need to stabilize our relationship. During those meetings, we had a robust conversation about regional and global challenges.
That includes Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. I reiterated that we would welcome China playing a constructive role along with other nations to work toward a just peace, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter. We also spoke about North Korea’s increasingly reckless actions and rhetoric. All members of the international community have an interest in encouraging the DPRK to act responsibly, to stop launching missiles, to start engaging on its nuclear program. And China is in a unique position to press Pyongyang to engage in dialogue and to end its dangerous behavior. I raised U.S. concerns – shared by a growing number of countries – about the PRC’s
provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait, as well as in the South and East China Seas. On Taiwan, I reiterated the longstanding U.S. “one China” policy. That policy has not changed.
It’s guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiqués, the Six Assurances. We do not support Taiwan independence. We remain opposed to any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We continue to expect the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences. We remain committed to meeting our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act, including making sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself.
We also spoke about a range of bilateral issues, including continuing to develop principles to guide our relationship, as discussed by President Biden and President Xi in Bali late last year. We exchanged views on our respective economic policies, including our concerns about China’s unfair treatment of U.S. companies. During my meeting today with U.S. business leaders, who are operating in China, I heard about the problems that U.S. businesses are facing – including recent punitive actions against American firms. I also heard that U.S. companies want to continue and indeed grow their businesses here.
And so, in my meetings, I sought to clarify any misperceptions or misunderstandings about our approach. There is a profound difference, for the United States and for many other countries, between de-risking and decoupling. Our countries traded more over the last year – in fact, more than ever over the last year – nearly $700 billion. Healthy and robust economic engagement benefits both the United States and China. And as Secretary Yellen testified before Congress last week, it would be, as she put it, disastrous for us to decouple and stop all trade and investment with China.
We are for de-risking and diversifying. That means investing in our own capacities and in secure, resilient supply chains; pushing for level playing fields for our workers and our companies; defending against harmful trade practice; and protecting our critical technologies so that they aren’t used against us. I made clear that we’ll continue to take targeted actions that are necessary to protect U.S. national security. In my meetings, I also discussed human rights.
The United States and the international community remain deeply concerned about PRC human rights violations, including in Xinjiang, in Tibet, and Hong Kong. I also specifically raised wrongfully detained U.S. citizens and those facing exit bans. There is no higher priority for me than the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens overseas, and I’ll continue to work intensively to secure their release and their safe return home.
As we work to address our differences, the United States is prepared to cooperate with China in areas where we have mutual interests, including climate, macroeconomic stability, public health, food security, counternarcotics. On food security, we believe China can play a key role in alleviating global food insecurity. I underscore the importance of supporting a long-term expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has facilitated the export of almost 32 million tons of grain from Ukraine; with approximately 18 million tons going to developing countries. A long-term expansion is critical for avoiding food shortages in the some of the poorest, most food-insecure countries in the world, as well as price surges. I raised as a priority the issue of synthetic opioids and fentanyl, a crisis in the United States.
Fentanyl is the number-one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49. I made clear that we need much greater cooperation to address this critical issue. We agreed to explore setting up a working group or joint effort so that we can shut off the flow of precursor chemicals, which helped fuel this crisis and a growing number of deaths. Finally, we discussed the importance of strengthening people-to-people exchanges between students, scholars, business travelers.
That benefits our citizens, our economies, and our relationship. Today, I had an opportunity to meet with an impressive group of alumni from those exchange programs. In my meetings, we discussed enhancing educational exchanges and we committed to work to increase direct flights between our countries. To continue dialogue on these and other important issues, I would expect additional visits by senior U.S. officials to China over the coming weeks. And we welcome further visits by Chinese officials to the United States. To that end, I invited State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang to visit Washington, and he agreed to come at a mutually suitable time.
A little later this evening, I leave for London to attend the Ukraine Recovery Conference, and I’ll also have an opportunity there to brief allies and partners on this visit and to continue to strengthen our alignment. We have no illusions about the challenges of managing this relationship. There are many issues on which we profoundly, even vehemently disagree. We will always take the best course of action to advance the interests of the American people. But the United States has a long history of successfully managing complicated, consequential relationships through diplomacy.
It’s the responsibility of both countries to find a path forward – and it’s in both our interests, and the interests of the world, that we do so. MR MILLER: We’ll take a few questions. The first question goes to Iain Marlow with Bloomberg. QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary. China has accused the U.S. of economic containment over the Biden administration’s efforts
to limit Beijing’s access to key technology, including semiconductors, as you mentioned. Are you worried that the future U.S. moves in that area will derail the current efforts to stabilize ties with China, and might force the Chinese to take retaliatory measures, perhaps, in other areas of the relationship? And after your talks here in China, secondly, what’s your impression of the top leadership’s stance on Ukraine, whether they are still likely to provide, eventually, lethal aid to Russia? Or are they at all interested in using their influence with Vladimir Putin to bring about a diplomatic solution to the conflict? Thank you. SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks very much, Iain.
So, on the first part of the question, one of the important things for me to do on this trip was to disabuse our Chinese hosts of the notion that we are seeking to economically contain them. We’re not. And as I’ve said, we are not about decoupling; we’re about de-risking and diversifying. And here’s what I mean by that.
First, when it comes to decoupling or economic containment, I think the facts simply belie that proposition. As I mentioned, our trade relationship reached the highest number that it’s ever hit last year – about $700 billion in trade. American foreign direct investment in China has reached levels that we haven’t seen since 2014. Parenthetically, we’ve got about 300,000 Chinese students studying in the United States.
We have many American companies that I met with, or at least their representatives here, including the Chamber of Commerce, that continue to be very interested to do business here – and it’s profoundly in our interest. I also noted to our hosts that China’s broad economic success is also in our interest. We have done a remarkable job rebounding from COVID and having a growing economy – very low unemployment, tremendous investments in our future.
But we also benefit tremendously when there is growth and progress in other countries – especially of one of the world’s largest economies, when it comes to China. So, it simply would not be in our interest to seek to decouple. And as you – as I mentioned and as you heard Secretary Yellen say to Congress just a few days ago, in fact, it would be disastrous. However, what is clearly in our interest is making sure that certain specific technologies that China may be using to, for example: advance its very opaque nuclear weapons program, to build hypersonic missiles, to use technology that may have repressive purposes – it’s not in our interest to provide that technology to China. And I also made that very clear. So, the actions that we’re taking, that we’ve already taken, and as necessary that we’ll continue to take are narrowly focused, carefully tailored to advance and protect our national security.
And I think that’s a very important distinction. Now, we’re also not the only ones doing that. In fact, the phrase of the day, “de-risk, not decouple,” was actually put forward by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. And it reflects very well the approach that many countries are taking, both because of the importance of sustaining economic relations – trade and investment with China, but also because of concerns about some of the things that China is doing with the technology that’s getting to them. So, I spent some time making sure that we were very clear about what we’re doing as well as what we’re not doing. With regard to lethal aid to Russia for use in Ukraine, we and other countries have received assurances from China that it is not and will not provide lethal assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine.
We appreciate that, and we have not seen any evidence that contradicts that. What we do have ongoing concerns about, though, are Chinese firms, companies, that may be providing technology that Russia can use to advance its aggression in Ukraine. And we have asked the Chinese Government to be very vigilant about that. MR MILLER: The next question goes to Marcelo Ninio with O Globo.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question about the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. And last year, China has been within special importance to the BRICS, and even though the government says it’s not an anti-China and U.S. bloc, many people see it this way.
The last development gave some reason for people to think like that. There was claims from the U.S. that South Africa is giving weapons to Russia. China wants to expand the BRICS. There is almost 20 countries already lining up to join the BRICS, mostly from the Global South. And my president, President Lula, here in China said that – criticized very strongly the dominance of the dollar in the world economy. So, the question is: How does the U.S. Government sees the BRICS?
Does it see it as a China-led challenge to the West and to the United States? Thank you. SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, as a general proposition, we have long stood for the proposition that countries should be able to freely associate with other countries in any groupings that they want. It’s something that we stand very strongly for and have defended for a long, long time. When it comes to the BRICS, we’re deeply engaged with its leading members.
In fact, this week Prime Minister Modi of India will be in Washington for a state visit. And of course we welcomed President Lula to Washington several months ago, where he had a very productive and constructive meeting with President Biden. So, we’re engaged across the board with members of the BRICS, and we’ll continue to do that.
MR MILLER: For the next question, Nike Ching with Voice of America. QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Secretary. SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good evening. QUESTION: I hope you make more news from this news conference.
On Taiwan, how was Taiwan discussed in your 35 minutes meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping? U.S. officials have said that military conflict in the Taiwan Strait will be, quote, a global concern. Taiwan will have a presidential election in 2024. Should a democratic election be a pretext to any military escalation in the Taiwan Strait? How did you – how do you respond to China’s position that Taiwan is an internal issue – that is not an American concern and upon which where there is no room for compromise? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. From the very beginning of our normalization of relations with China, going back to the three communiques many years ago, fundamental to us, in that, is the understanding that any differences regarding Taiwan will be resolved peacefully. That is foundational to how we understand our relationship. And for the past almost five decades, this is an issue that China and the United States have managed responsibly.
We remain committed to our “one China” policy with the three communiques, the Taiwan Relations Act, the six assurances. We do not support Taiwan’s independence. We’ve made clear that we oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We’ve been clear and consistent in our policy, and it’s very important that we preserve the status quo that has helped maintain peace and stability across the strait for decades. So, I reiterated that to our Chinese counterparts. President Biden has also made that repeatedly clear in his engagements with China.
At the same time, we and many others have deep concerns about some of the provocative actions that China has taken in recent years, going back to 2016. And the reason that this is a concern for so many countries, not just the United States, is that were there to be a crisis over Taiwan, the likelihood is that that would produce an economic crisis that could affect quite literally the entire world. Fifty percent of commercial container traffic goes through the Taiwan Strait every day. Seventy percent of semiconductors are manufactured on Taiwan.
If as a result of a crisis that was taken offline, it would have dramatic consequences for virtually every country around the world, which is, again, why there has been rising concern about some of the provocative actions that China has taken. I also made that very clear. President Biden believes strongly that one of the successful aspects of our relationship with China, going back five decades, has been the responsible management of the Taiwan question.
We continue to believe that that’s essential. MR MILLER: The next question goes to Ni Xiaowen with Phoenix TV. QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I’m from Phoenix TV. We know for some time now the United States has been pushing dialogue with China. At the same time, we saw the United States has included some Chinese companies to its entity list and restricted CHIPS Act – chips exports to China and plan to limit investment in high-tech sector.
And China believes the United States is both seeking dialogue and the same time containing China. So, I want to ask how will U.S. address these concerns and to show sincerity to communicate? Thank you. SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, as I noted, this was actually an important part of the conversations that we had.
And as I suggested to our colleague a few minutes ago, it was important to me that we make clear the very clear differences between allegations that we’re trying to contain China and decouple economically, as opposed to what we’re actually doing – which is, as I’ve said, de-risking and also diversifying when it comes to our supply chains. As I mentioned, the economic relationship with China is vitally important; and also, when it’s fair, a very positive thing for countries around the world. And at a time when countries are trying to rebound from COVID, something the United States has done very successfully, we want to see growth, we want to see success, in every part of the world, including, of course, in the major economies like China.
It’s in our interest. But at the same time, as I said, it’s not in our interest to provide technology to China that could be used against us. And at a time when it’s engaged in a buildup of its nuclear weapons program in a very opaque way, when it’s producing hypersonic missiles, when it’s using technology for repressive purposes against its own people, how is it in our interest to provide those specific technologies to China? And other countries feel the same way.
So, what this is about, again, is not trying to cut off, eliminate, hinder economic relations. On the contrary, we think that they should be strengthened but in a way that looks out for our workers, that looks out for our companies. And I heard many concerns about that today. But at the same time, we can, we will, and we must take steps necessary to protect our national security. If the shoe were on the other foot, I have no doubt that China would do exactly the same thing.
MR MILLER: And the final question goes to Kylie Atwood with CNN. QUESTION: Thanks, Secretary Blinken. I just want to follow up on one comment you made earlier, and then I have two questions in classic fashion here. You said that you have received assurances – or you said the United States has received assurances from China that they will not provide lethal aid to Russia. Were those assurances specifically made to you today? And do you believe that is a final decision on behalf of Chinese leadership given the U.S. has said that they are considering providing lethal aid to Russia in the past?
My second question: Did your Chinese counterparts agree to set up a crisis communications channel or military-to-military channel of communications that both sides could reliably use if they agreed to it? When will those channels be set up? And then generally, can you say that U.S.-China relations are in a better place today than they were before your visit? SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. So, with regard to assurances on providing lethal assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine, this is not – this is not new today. This is something that China has said in recent weeks and has repeatedly said – not only to us, but to many other countries that have raised this concern – that they are not and will not provide lethal assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine.
And that’s an important commitment, an important policy. And as I’ve said, we’ve not seen anything right now to contradict that. But what we are concerned about is private companies in China that may be providing assistance, in some cases dual use, in some cases clearly directed at enhancing Russia’s military capacity in Ukraine.
That is a concern, and it’s something that I pointed out to our Chinese counterparts and urged that they be vigilant in policing that. With regard to crisis communications and military-to-military channels, this is also something that I raised repeatedly during this trip. 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. I think that’s an issue that we have to keep working on.
It is very important that we restore those channels. If we agree that we have a responsibility to manage this relationship responsibly, if we agree that it’s in our mutual interests to make sure that the competitive aspects of the relationship don’t veer into conflict, then surely we can agree and see the need for making sure that the channels of communication that we’ve both said are necessary to do that include military-to-military channels. So this is something that we’re going to keep working on, and as I said, there’s no immediate progress, but it is a continued priority for us. Finally, with regard to the trip itself, look, it was clear coming in that the relationship was at a point of instability, and both sides recognized the need to work to stabilize it.
And specifically, we believe that it’s important to, as I said, establish better lines of communication, open channels of communication, both to address misperceptions, miscalculations, to ensure that that competition doesn’t veer into conflict. And we were able not only today and yesterday to move back to those kinds of communications, but also I think we can anticipate in the weeks ahead visits by other senior officials – Chinese officials coming to the United States for that purpose. Second, it was important to use this visit for purposes of stabilizing the relationship to be able to directly raise, face to face, issues of concern, places where we have profound differences.
Those disagreements are pretty well-known. There are bilateral challenges; there are global issues, regional security issues, values, human rights. And we did, in great detail and at some length, raise them, discuss them; and that is also beneficial – to make sure that we have clarity between us on these differences, clarity on intent.
Finally, this was an opportunity to explore areas where we might cooperate in the interests of our own people, in the interests of people around the world – on climate, on global economic stability, on global health, on fentanyl, as I mentioned – on exchanges, actually, between our people. So, I think on – in terms of those objectives that we set for this trip – establishing open communications channels, directly raising issues of concern, exploring cooperation in places where it’s in our mutual interest to do so – we did all of that on this trip. But 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. It’s in the interests of the United States to do that. It’s in the interests of China to do that.
It’s in the interests of the world. And I think we took a positive step in that direction over the last two days. Thank you. MR MILLER: Thank you. QUESTION: Why should the U.S. engage in continued talks over the coming weeks, if China won’t engage with you on setting those military-to-military channels of communication? SECRETARY BLINKEN: Because, as we’ve seen, we’re not going to have success on every issue between us on any given day, but in a whole variety of areas – on the terms that we set for this trip, we have made progress and we are moving forward.
But again, I want to emphasize none of this gets solved, resolved with one visit, one trip, one conversation. It’s a process. And my hope and expectation is that we’re more engaged in that.
At the end of the day, the best way that we can advance our interests, stand up for our values, and make sure that we are very clear about our intent – the best way to do that is through direct engagement, through diplomacy, and that’s my responsibility. The meetings that we had, I thought, were very candid, very in-depth, and in places constructive, and in other places we have a lot more work to do. MR MILLER: Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. MR MILLER: Thank you.