He was welcomed by Yang Tao, Director General of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, and U.S. Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, as he landed in Beijing.
Blinken is the first top U.S. diplomat to visit China in five years, continuing frosty U.S.-China relations. A February trip was postponed following the diplomatic tumult sparked by what the U.S. said was a Chinese spy balloon flying over American airspace.
Photos and videos showed there was no red carpet to welcome Blinken, and only a small number of officials had gathered at the airport.
Human rights activist Jennifer Zeng, who has lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years, noted in a tweet that “only the U.S. ambassador and Yang Tao, the director of the North America and Oceania Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (a much lower level #CCP official) were present to welcome him at the airport. No red carpet. No welcoming crowds, no waist drum performance… This, according to Chinese standards and culture, is a deliberate humiliation.”
Professor Steve Tsang, Director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, U.K., told Newsweek that Blinken’s visit is viewed by Beijing as a concession to the U.S.
Blinken “is trying to re-open high-level dialogue and set up some kind of guardrails to reduce risk for US-China relations to slide further,” Tsang said.
“Beijing essentially thinks that the USA is at fault and unless the U.S. side shows ‘sincerity’ and retracts from its hostile approach to China, there’s not much to talk about.
“So, the very fact that the visit is taking place is already being seen by Beijing as a concession it has made to the U.S. Unless Blinken has something to offer Beijing that Beijing sees as valuable (thus showing sincerity on the part of the U.S.), the visit is unlikely to secure concrete results.”
Twitters users quickly compared the lack of fanfare for Blinken’s arrival to the grand welcome received by French President Emmanuel Macron when he arrived in China for a state visit in April.
China rolled out the red carpet for Macron, with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi greeting him at the airport. A Chinese guard of honor and children were also part of Macron’s welcome.
“But it’s still, it better than Ursula von der Leyen having to get off from a commercial terminal. Let’s see if he’s important enough to meet President Xi [Jinping] like Bill Gates just did.”
Although Twitter is officially blocked in China, some Chinese companies and national media, such as Huawei and CCTV, use the service through a government-approved VPN. Many government departments and officials have their own accounts.
Another Twitter user shared video of Blinken’s arrival, writing: “No red carpet. No high ranking officials to meet him. Just a red line to cross.”
However, some said the two visits should not be compared.
“Blinken is a cabinet level official on a work visit, while Macron is the head of state on a state visit,” a Twitter user noted.
Former President Donald Trump also received a lavish welcoming ceremony when he arrived in Beijing for a state visit in 2017. He descended from a red-carpeted staircase to uniformed guards and children waving U.S. and China flags.
Blinken began his visit by meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang for an extended discussion, The Associated Press reported.
He will hold further talks with Qin as well as Wang, China’s top diplomat, on Monday, and possibly meet President Xi.
Asked if Blinken could ease tensions with China on his trip, President Joe Biden told reporters on Saturday: “Sure. Well, look, China has some legitimate difficulties unrelating to the—unrelated to the United States. And I think one of the things that that balloon caused was not so much that it got shot down, but I don’t think the leadership knew where it was and knew what was in it and knew what was going on. I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional.
“And so, I’m hoping that, over the next several months, I’ll be meeting with Xi again and talking about legitimate differences we have but also how there’s areas we can get along.”
Published: 2023-06-18 14:16:37