Tuesday, September 26

Yellen lands in Beijing for high-stakes meetings with top Chinese officials

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived in Beijing on Thursday for high-stakes meetings with senior Chinese officials. It’s her first visit to China as treasury secretary and comes as the U.S. and China have seen escalating tensions over national security and technology. 

“I am glad to be in Beijing to meet with Chinese officials and business leaders,” Yellen tweeted after arriving in Beijing. “We seek a healthy economic competition that benefits American workers and firms and to collaborate on global challenges. We will take action to protect our national security when needed, and this trip presents an opportunity to communicate and avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding.”

Yellen is the second top-ranking Biden administration official to head to China in recent weeks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing last month, where he met with President Xi Jinping. Blinken said both sides agreed on the need to stabilize the U.S.-China relationship. His visit came after a previously scheduled visit had been rescheduled amid tensions after the U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon in February. There has also been tension over trade and the U.S. move to block Chinese access to some technologies. 

During her two days of meetings, Yellen will be discussing the importance of responsibly managing the U.S.-China relationship and speaking directly about areas of concern, seeking common ground where possible, a senior Treasury official said. 

While in Beijing, Yellen will meet with Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People to talk about the economic relationship between the U.S. and China, raise issues of concern and discuss how the world’s largest two economies can work together, according to the senior Treasury official. She is not expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (3rd R) arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on July 6, 2023. 


Yellen will also meet with her former counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He and with leading representatives of American businesses in China hosted by AmCham, where she will hear directly from them about the opportunities and challenges they’re facing in China. Yellen will also attend a dinner hosted by the former governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan. 

“We don’t expect specific policy breakthroughs in these meetings, but we do hope to have and expect to have frank and productive conversations that will help lay the groundwork for future communication,” the senior Treasury official said.  

In April, Yellen delivered a speech laying out three key principles of the U.S. approach to its economic relationship with China. The three pillars include targeted actions to protect America’s national security and human rights, achieving a healthy competitive economic relationship between the two countries that benefits both and seeking cooperation between the two countries to address global challenges. 

One of these is climate change — Yellen and Chinese officials are expected to discuss efforts by their countries, the world’s two largest polluters, to combat it. They will also be tackling the question of how to help developing countries facing debt. 

The relationship between the U.S. and China is a complicated one, as Yellen pointed out in her April address. She recalled in the years after President Nixon visited China, it implemented market reforms and engaged with the global economy, “driving an impressive rise into the second-largest economy in the world.” The U.S. and international institutions helped China integrate into global markets and supported its economic development, she noted. But China’s approach to the world has shifted in recent years, Yellen said, deciding “to pivot away from market reforms toward a more state-driven approach that has undercut its neighbors and countries across the world.” And that’s been accompanied by “a more confrontational posture” toward the U.S. and its allies. 

But Yellen and senior officials emphasize that the U.S. does not support decoupling the two economies. She argues that the U.S. needs to diversify supply chains and protect against overdependence. 

Amid increased tensions, the U.S. recently warned a new Chinese anti-espionage law could put American companies at greater risk for penalties for regular business activities. The new legislation went into effect on July 1.  Last month the State Department also updated its travel advisory to China to the “risk of wrongful detentions.” Americans are being warned to reconsider travel there.

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