U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards his plane for Berlin at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on June 22, 2021.

Ondřej Harník | Pool | Reuters

BEIJING – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to Beijing this weekend for his first trip to China under the Biden administration.

Delayed by more than four months, Blinken’s trip represents a rare high-level meeting between the US and China at a time of heightened tensions.

Little is expected to emerge from the talks themselves. But Blinken’s visit to Beijing helps pave the way for more meetings — including a potential one-on-one between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later this year.

Blinken’s trip to Beijing is “a potentially important turning point in the relationship,” Scott Kennedy, senior adviser and chairman of the board for China trade and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC.

“Just enhancing communication is a reasonable goal,” he said. “If [both sides] to announce that the talks have gone well enough that they can schedule further meetings at government level.”

Communications and meetings between the US and China have dried up in the past few years due to the pandemic and political tensions.

The US State Department said Blinken was ready to meet with a “senior”. [People’s Republic of China] officials, where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication for the responsible management of US-PRC relations.”

Blinken “will also raise bilateral issues, global and regional issues and potential cooperation on joint transnational challenges,” department spokesman Matthew Miller said. he said in a statement.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the visit, but did not provide details of the specific meetings.

Expectations for a significant upturn in US-China relations, particularly as a result of Blinken’s upcoming trip, remain low.

“The goal is still to prevent further deterioration of the relationship, rather than formulating and agreeing to a shared vision for the way forward,” said Drew Thompson, a former US Defense Department official and current visiting senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School. public policy in Singapore.

“The rhetoric of the Biden administration is that we will compete where we can; and cooperate where we must,” Thompson said. “But China doesn’t see it that way. China sees the political elements of competition as well as cooperation and is not willing to cooperate if there is still an element of competition or if the US challenges it politically.”

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“And so I think the administration’s goals are unrealistic at this point because of the way Beijing has framed its interest in its strategy.”

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“The US must live up to its commitment to the ‘One China’ policy,” Peking University professor Jia Qingguo said on the sidelines of the Caixin New Asia Vision conference in Singapore on Tuesday.

“China also does not wish to see any accidents between the two armies,” Jia added.

“He recognizes that while there is a need to establish military buffers between the two countries, this is not enough. Both countries should also establish similar buffers for diplomacy and economic relations to avoid confrontation. This will limit reactive actions and reduce any chance of an accident.”

Among the many other points where the US and China differ is Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Beijing has refused to call an invasion while calling for peace talks.

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