US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: A Step Forward in US-China Relations

By | July 9, 2023

The recent visit of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Beijing has been hailed as a significant development in the efforts to stabilize relations between the United States and China. In a four-day trip that focused on various issues, including climate change, Yellen expressed optimism about the progress made during the talks.

The Importance of Direct and Productive Talks

Yellen described the discussions as “direct, substantive, and productive,” emphasizing the mutual learning experience between the two nations. Despite acknowledging the existence of significant disagreements, she highlighted the value of ongoing communication.

Building a Resilient Channel of Communication

While recognizing that no single visit can resolve all challenges overnight, Yellen expressed confidence that the trip has laid the groundwork for a resilient and productive channel of communication with China’s new economic team.

Addressing Key Divisions

The US-China relationship has experienced a deterioration in recent years due to a variety of issues. These include concerns regarding human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, territorial claims over Taiwan and the South China Sea, as well as Beijing’s increasing dominance across various industries.

A Regrettable Deterioration in Ties

Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, one of the officials who met with Secretary Yellen, expressed regret over the negative incidents that have strained relations between the two countries. He acknowledged that “unexpected incidents” like the recent spy balloon controversy have impacted bilateral ties adversely.

Emphasizing the Need for Better Communication

Yellen emphasized the importance of improved communication to address these issues effectively. She highlighted that President Joe Biden does not perceive the US-China relationship solely through the lens of great power conflict, asserting that both countries can thrive in a vast world.

Pursuing a Dynamic and Fair Global Economy

Regarding economic competition, Yellen conveyed that the United States seeks a dynamic and healthy global economy that is open, free, and fair, rather than one that is fragmented or forces countries to choose sides. She stated that any future restrictions on business with China would be implemented transparently, focusing on sectors with specific national security concerns.

Criticism of Beijing’s Curbs on US Firms

During her visit, Yellen criticized Beijing’s restrictions on American companies, including tightened controls on exports of crucial materials for computer chip production. This move was seen as a response to Washington’s own efforts to limit China’s access to advanced computer chips. Yellen vowed to counter China’s unfair economic practices.

Climate Change and Collaborative Efforts

Yellen urged Beijing to collaborate with the US on addressing climate change and support institutions like the Green Climate Fund. This fund aims to assist developing nations in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Promoting Better Engagement

Janet Yellen’s visit followed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing in June, making him the highest-ranking US official to visit the Chinese capital in nearly five years. Both Yellen and Blinken expressed hopes for better communication and engagement between the two countries moving forward, despite acknowledging the existence of major challenges.

Trade Growth Amidst Political Tensions

Despite the political tensions, trade between the United States and China has continued to grow. Official figures indicate that in 2022, China exported over $536 billion (£422.3 billion) worth of goods to the US, while $154 billion of goods were exported in the opposite direction.

In conclusion, Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing symbolizes a positive step forward in stabilizing the bilateral relationship between the United States and China. Despite existing disagreements and challenges, the emphasis on direct communication and mutual understanding offers hope for the future. Both nations have expressed their commitment to addressing key issues and fostering better engagement in the years to come.

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