Xi tells Blinken in high-stakes meeting: World needs stable U.S.-China relations

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) attends a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 19, 2023.
Leah Millis | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, as the top U.S. diplomat wraps up his rare two-day visit to Beijing amid simmering U.S.-China tensions.

Speaking as he addressed Blinken, Xi said that the two superpowers “have had candid and in-depth discussions” and stressed that state-to-state interactions should “always be based on mutual respect and sincerity,” in a video carried by Chinese state television outlet CCTV.

“I hope that, through this visit, Mr. Secretary, you will make more positive contributions to stabilizing China-U.S. relations,” the Chinese leader said.

“The two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues. This is very good,” he added, without disclosing further details.

Blinken’s 35-minute meeting with Xi at the Diaoyutai state guest house ended at 5:09 p.m. local time (5:09 a.m. ET), the State Department said.

Shortly afterward, Xi said the world needed a “generally stable” China-U.S. relationship, adding that whether the two countries can find the right way to get along “bears on the future of humanity,” Chinese state media Xinhua reported.

The trip by Blinken makes him the highest-level American official to visit China since Biden became U.S. president and the first U.S. secretary of State to make the trip in nearly five years. A meeting with Xi had not been confirmed before Blinken arrived in Beijing, and will likely be seen as a positive sign that talks are going well.

Blinken said U.S. President Joe Biden had asked him to travel to China because “he believes the United States and China have an obligation to responsibly manage our relationship.”

“The United States is committed to doing that,” Blinken said. “It’s in the interest of the United States in the interest of China and in the interest of the world.”

“I appreciate this opportunity to discuss a way forward with you,” Blinken told Xi.

Blinken’s original travel plans for February were disrupted by news of an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over U.S. airspace. The U.S. ultimately shot down the flying object, and tensions between the world’s two largest economies have since remained high.

It is expected that Blinken’s visit to China could pave the way for a November meeting between Biden and Xi. The two world leaders last met in person in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of a G20 summit late last year.

‘Open channels of communication’

Earlier, Blinken met top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Monday, after “candid, substantive, and constructive talks” with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday.

The meeting was expected to touch on a range of issues, including the importance of open lines of communication, Taiwan, the South China Sea and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken “underscored the importance of responsibly managing the competition between the United States and the PRC through open channels of communication to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The secretary also “reiterated that the United States will continue to use diplomacy to raise areas of concern and stand up for the interests and values of the American people.”

Wang stressed that the Blinken visit came at a critical juncture in Sino-U.S. relations, in a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry translated via Google. He said both parties must choose between cooperation and conflict, adding that the difficulties in the countries’ ties are rooted in the U.S.’ “erroneous perception of China, which leads to wrong policies towards China.”

Wang further urged Washington to give up its so-called “China threat theory,” to lift sanctions against Beijing and to no longer suppress China’s technological development.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wang’s characterization of the nature of U.S.-China difficulties.

China’s Xi held talks with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates last week, saying he hoped the friendship between the people of China and the U.S. would continue.

“I often say that the foundation of China-U.S. relations lies in the people. We always place our hopes on the American people and hope that the friendship between the two peoples will continue,” Xi said on Friday, according to CCTV.

Xi also told Gates he is the “first American friend” that he’d met in Beijing this year. A number of U.S. business leaders have embarked on visits to China in recent months, including Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.