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US-China relations unsteady: Commerce Sec. Raimondo heads to Beijing

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo's trip to China is the latest in a string of high-level visits from U.S. officials to Beijing.
US-China relations unsteady: Commerce Sec. Raimondo heads to Beijing
Posted at 9:16 PM, Aug 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-22 21:19:57-04

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will visit China next week, amid tensions that have persisted with U.S.-China ties. It's part of the Biden administration's ongoing efforts to increase dialogue and avoid more conflict.  

Raimondo’s visit will mark the latest in a string of high-level visits made by U.S. officials to Beijing. It follows trips by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Blinken’s initial visit was postponed earlier this year when a Chinese spy balloon was discovered flying over the United States. 

Raimondo is expected to meet with senior officials and U.S. business leaders, according to the Commerce Department. 

"We are not sending cabinet officials to China to change China, nor do we expect these conversations to change the United States. Rather, we each have the opportunity — through this high level engagement — to ensure that there is a basic, stable foundation in the relationship, even as we compete intensively in a number of domains," said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.  

The Biden administration has pursued competition with China, while trying to avoid more tension. But, there have been trade conflicts with the major economic power in Asia. 

Biden’s economic agenda has sought to boost onshore production and bolster supply chains. Earlier this month, the administration issued an executive order focused on trying to regulate some outbound technology investments in China. Senior administration officials framed it as a national security action rather than economic one. It includes semiconductors, quantum information technologies and some artificial intelligence systems the U.S. considers "critical to military modernization."

Raimondo is expected to discuss the reasoning behind the order, Sullivan said. She is also expected to press China on its economic policy and national security decisions.  

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"Secretary Raimondo will carry with her the message that the United States is not seeking to decouple from China but rather to de-risk, and that means protecting our national security and ensuring resilient supply chains alongside our allies and partners, while we continue our economic relationship and our trade relationship," Sullivan said.  

On Tuesday, Raimondo met with China's Ambassador Xie Feng. 

"Secretary Raimondo raised issues of importance to the United States and American businesses and workers, and discussed issues relating to the U.S.-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by U.S. businesses, and areas for potential cooperation," the Department of Commerce said.

Biden called attention to China's economic woes at a recent campaign reception in Salt Lake City, calling it a "ticking time-bomb in many cases."

"People are beginning to agree: China is in trouble. China was growing at 8% a year to maintain growth, and now closer to 2% a year," Biden told the audience. 

"China finds itself in a position where it has the highest unemployment rate going. It's in a position where ... the number of people who are of retirement age is larger than the number of people of working age. So, they got some problems."

The administration has called out less transparency in China's economic reporting.  

"These are not, in our view, responsible steps," Sullivan said.  

The visit comes amid tensions over China's actions in the South China Sea, threats towards Taiwan and as China has sought to attain more global influence. The administration has previously criticized China's increased aggression, as the U.S. focuses on its relationships in the Indo-Pacific region.  

After a summit with Japan and South Korea at Camp David to solidify the trilateral relationship, Biden indicated he wanted to follow-up on his conversation in Bali last year with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the fall.  


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