Yellen Ends China Trip After 'Productive' Talks

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The Facts

  • US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday concluded a four-day trip to China to help mend strained US-China ties, saying she held "direct, substantive and productive" talks with the PRC's new economic leadership, including Premier Li Qiang and central bank chief Pan Gongsheng.

  • Noting significant disagreements over what she described as Beijing's "unfair economic practices," Yellen said the Biden admin. does not view China-US relations through the lens of a "great power conflict," insisting that "the world is big enough" for both countries to flourish.

The Spin

Pro-China narrative

Yellen's visit once again reveals the paradoxical character of US policy toward China. While Yellen underscored Washington's desire to improve relations, this will do little to change Washington's overall "decoupling" strategy. Bilateral relations are primarily based on deeds rather than words, and by seeing the PRC primarily as a strategic rival, the US will continue to block China's economic and technological rise for the sake of "national security." Unless Washington reconsiders its zero-sum approach, there is no escaping this dead end.

Anti-China narrative

While Yellen's trip did not yield any concrete breakthroughs, the fact that she is the first US Treasury Secretary to visit China in four years is an important step forward. During her difficult mission, Yellen signaled that there is no contradiction in seeking to improve political and economic relations on the one hand and defending Washington's national security interests through targeted safeguards on the other. Beijing's recent punitive economic measures are unlikely to improve ties, but Washington welcomes China's efforts to discuss ways to de-escalate.

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