• Reuters

Blinken Discusses Human Rights Issues, Taiwan Strait with Senior Chinese Official

REUTERS/Anna Rose Layden
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Chinese Communist Party International Liaison Department Minister Liu Jianchao (not pictured) at the State Department in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2024.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday raised concerns over China’s human rights issues in a meeting with senior Chinese official Liu Jianchao in Washington, the State Department said. They also discussed “maintaining peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait, the State Department said.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Senior U.S. and Chinese officials have held regular discussions in the past few months to keep communication lines open between the world’s two largest economies, relations which have been tense in recent years over a range of issues, among which are the origins of COVID-19, trade tariffs, Taiwan and human rights.

Friday’s meeting came a day ahead of elections in Taiwan that will test efforts to ease U.S.-China tensions.

KEY QUOTES

Blinken “emphasized the importance of resolving the cases of American citizens who are wrongfully detained or subject to exit bans in China and raised U.S. concerns about (China’s) human rights abuses,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The Secretary reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea,” it said.

CONTEXT

The Jan. 13 presidential and parliamentary contests in Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, represent the first real wild card in 2024 for the Biden administration’s goal of stabilizing ties with China.

Friday’s meeting was the latest in a flurry of U.S.-China interactions following a November summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco.

Those included a Wednesday meeting between Liu and White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, a phone call on Thursday between U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao, and the resumption this week of long-frozen military talks between the countries.

The U.S. is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier even though Washington does not formally recognize its government, maintaining official relations only with Beijing.

Taiwan’s government has accused China of election interference to sway the vote toward candidates Beijing may prefer. China has labeled those allegations “dirty tricks.”