By Editor-June 18th, 2023.
It may not be just that election season is approaching in the United States, but it seems that this week is seeing some thawing in diplomatic relations between the United States and China which have been deep frozen of late.
First Bill Gates, the former chief of Microsoft and now head of the huge foundation that bears his name and that of his ex-wife showed up in China on Wednesday and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to have his photo taken and discuss how China has made huge achievements in poverty reduction and dealing with the coronavirus, which he said set a good example for the world.
Gates has updated details of his China trip on his Sina Weibo account. On Wednesday, he said on the platform that this was his first visit to China since 2019. One day later, he published on Weibo the speech he delivered at the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI) in Beijing.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday announced that it has renewed collaboration with the Beijing Municipal Government and Tsinghua University on innovative therapies for infectious diseases prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, pledging a donation of $50 million for the joint endeavor.
Chinese Minister of Finance Liu Kun also met with Gates on Thursday and they exchanged views on issues such as addressing common global challenges, financing for development and the role of multilateral development banks, according to the ministry on Friday.
Greeting the 67-year-old US entrepreneur in Beijing’s Diaoyutai state guesthouse, where China’s leaders have historically received senior foreign guests, Xi called Gates the first “American friend” he has met in Beijing this year.
Xi will soon be meeting another American friend as today Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in China with the stated aim of “easing tensions between the two countries and helping steer the bilateral relations into a stable track.”
Blinken’s visit to China, which has been described as “rare” and “high-stakes” as it is the first trip to the country by a top US diplomat since 2018, is expected to help steer China-US relations to a stable track as the bilateral ties have been at their lowest ebb in decades, reports Global Times, a Chinese government Web site that provides news with a Chinese slant.
The two countries have been at odds on a series of issues including trade, national security and technology, facing rising tensions in the Taiwan Straits due to differing views about the future sovereignty of Taiwan.
Over the past four months, the China-US relations have encountered new challenges with dialogue and communication between the two sides largely in a “frozen” state and the “balloon incident” highlighted the fragility and instability of the bilateral relations, some experts said.
The balloon incident refers to a Chinese-owned high altitude balloon thatwas spotted early in 2023 in North American airspace. On February 4, the U.S. Air Force shot down the balloon over U.S. off the coast of South Carolina on the order of U.S. President Joe Biden. Debris from the wreckage was recovered and sent to the FBI Laboratory for analysis.
The American and Canadian militaries announced that the balloon was for surveillance, whilst the Chinese government maintained it was a civilian (mainly meteorological) airship that had been blown off course.
The U.S. said that the balloon was capable of geolocating electronic communications and carried intelligence surveillance equipment inconsistent with that of a weather balloon. It added that similar Chinese spy balloons have flown over more than 40 nations.
While US officials have played down the prospect of a major breakthrough during the Blinken trip, the visit, propelled by the US’ urgent need to engage with China, may serve as “window of opportunity” to save bilateral ties from deteriorating to “worse than the worst,” some experts said.
Sources: AP, Global News, BBC, CNN.