US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to China soon after “constructive” discussions with her Chinese counterpart on Wednesday, Washington said, as the two countries seek to boost ties and ease tensions.
The first face-to-face meeting between Yellen and China’s Vice Premier Liu He, held in Zurich, was “sincere, substantive and constructive”, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
“Both sides agreed that it is important for the functioning of the global economy to further improve communication on macroeconomic and financial issues,” and also agreed to “strengthen cooperation on climate finance,” it added.
After the “sincere exchange”, it said that Yellen “looks forward to traveling to China and to welcoming her colleagues to the United States in the near future”.
The Chinese side also praised the meeting, with state news agency Xinhua describing the talks as “constructive”, and the exchanges between Liu and Yellen as “in-depth, honest and practical”.
Liu, it reported, had said Yellen was welcome to visit his country “at an appropriate time this year”.
That announcement came just a day after it was confirmed that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would make a long-awaited trip to Beijing on 5-6. February.
He will be the first US secretary of state to travel to China since a brief visit in October 2018 by his Republican predecessor Mike Pompeo, known for his fierce criticism of Beijing.
The planned visits will take place amid increased diplomatic efforts to keep tensions between the two giants at bay.
At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, Yellen stressed the “urgent need for the two largest economies in the world to communicate closely on global macroeconomic and financial conditions.”
Speaking through an interpreter, Liu also called for “serious communication”.
“In our view, the China-US relationship is very important,” he said.
Long-standing disputes between the two countries flared up during Donald Trump’s presidency and have continued – if less acutely – under US President Joe Biden.
Locked in fierce strategic competition, the United States and China spend more on their militaries than any other nation.
But both Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have said they want to reduce tensions.
When the two leaders met in November on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, both expressed a cautious hope to prevent disputes from spiraling out of control.
They pledged “to continue responsibly managing the competition between our two countries and to explore potential areas of cooperation,” the State Department said in November.
“Seek Common Ground”
Referring to the Bali meeting, Yellen said Wednesday that “we share a responsibility to show that China and the United States can manage our differences and prevent competition from becoming something close to conflict.”
“We have areas of disagreement and we will convey them directly,” said Yellen, who was on a brief stop in Zurich before an 11-day trip to Africa, aimed at deepening economic ties on a continent where China has become a key player. …
But “we should not allow misunderstandings, especially those stemming from a lack of communication, to unnecessarily worsen our bilateral economic and financial relationship,” she said.
Liu, who on Tuesday told the World Economic Forum in nearby Davos that it was time to end a “cold war mentality”, seemed to agree.
“Right now it looks like we’re facing some problems,” he acknowledged Wednesday. “But as President Xi said, we all have one planet Earth, and there are always more solutions than problems.”
“We must always keep the bigger picture in mind, try to manage our differences properly and seek common ground,” he added.
“No matter how circumstances change, we should always maintain dialogue and exchange.”