US Treasury Secretary Yellen concludes visit, works to strengthen US-China ties


US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen concluded her four-day trip to China on Sunday, emphasizing the importance of healthy economic competition and enhanced communication. Yellen’s visit, following US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent trip, aimed to establish a firmer foundation for bilateral relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Speaking at the US embassy in Beijing, Yellen expressed her belief that both countries could thrive in a world where they coexist harmoniously. She stressed the need for responsible management of the relationship and collaboration in tackling the existential threat posed by climate change, stating, “Both nations have an obligation to find a way to live together and share in global prosperity.”

While no specific breakthroughs were announced, Yellen’s visit contributes to President Joe Biden’s administration’s efforts to stabilize ties with China. The official Xinhua news agency reported an agreement reached during Yellen’s meeting with Vice Premier He Lifeng to strengthen communication and cooperation in addressing global challenges. Both sides also agreed to maintain ongoing exchanges.

Yellen acknowledged the significant disagreements between the US and China but described her talks as direct, substantive, and productive. She deemed her bilateral meetings, which spanned approximately 10 hours over two days, as a step forward in establishing a more stable foundation for the US-China relationship. Yellen expressed confidence in more frequent and regular communication going forward.

The trade curbs imposed by Washington, which it claims are necessary for national security, remain a key source of tension. Yellen clarified that these measures were not intended to gain an economic advantage but were motivated by national security considerations. Addressing potential new curbs on American outbound investment to China, Yellen assured transparency and a targeted approach aimed solely at sectors of specific national security concern.

Yellen raised concerns about unfair economic practices by Beijing, including barriers to foreign firms entering the Chinese market and the protection of intellectual property. She also expressed worries about coercive actions against American companies, alluding to a recent national security crackdown by China.

During her visit, Yellen emphasized the critical need for collaboration between the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in addressing climate change and climate financing.

Experts suggest that concrete breakthroughs and major deliverables may be reserved for announcements by the two leaders, President Biden and President Xi Jinping. Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, highlighted the significance of the level of communication and consultations between the two sides, which have been limited in recent years. President Biden has previously expressed confidence in meeting President Xi soon.

The primary goal of Yellen’s visit is seen as a messaging effort, particularly aimed at US allies and partners in the region and globally. The visit intends to communicate Washington’s perspective on its economic relationship with China, dispel the notion of a purely zero-sum competition, and emphasize the pursuit of a fair playing field.

China has shown a more enthusiastic response to Yellen’s visit compared to Blinken’s trip, as Yellen is considered more rational and professional in her approach to China-US economic and trade relations. However, experts caution that stabilizing relations requires more than a single visit and interaction.

Yellen’s visit and her remarks signal support for continued economic cooperation between the US and China, despite political frictions and competitive actions in limiting China’s access to certain technologies like semiconductors, according to Taylor Fravel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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