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News / Nation & World

Yellen says US-China relationship on ‘more stable footing’ but more can be done to improve ties

By Associated Press
Published: April 7, 2024, 2:47pm

BEIJING — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a message of mutual cooperation at a meeting Sunday with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, highlighting the improvement in relations since her visit to China last year while recognizing that major differences remain.

After focusing on trade and economic issues for the first two days of her visit, Yellen turned to the broader U.S.-China relationship in the meeting with Li, one of China’s top leaders.

“While we have more to do, I believe that, over the past year, we have put our bilateral relationship on more stable footing,” she said in the ornate Fujian room of the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square.

Yellen, who is regarded favorably in China, is the first Cabinet member to visit since Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met in California in November in a carefully orchestrated meeting to set the troubled relationship between their countries on a better course.

Li, in remarks before the media before their meeting, said the high media interest in Yellen’s visit “shows the high expectation they have … and also the expectation and hope to grow” the U.S.-China relationship.

China’s emergence as an economic and military power has created a rivalry with the long dominant United States.

The U.S. has restricted China’s access to advanced semiconductors and other technology, saying it could be used for military purposes. China, still a middle-income country, accuses the U.S. of trying to constrain its economic development.

At their meeting, Li told Yellen that China hopes the U.S won’t politicize economic and trade issues or overstretch the definition of national security, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Yellen came to China with trade practices that put American companies and workers at an unfair competitive disadvantage at the top of her agenda.

Chinese government subsidies and other policy support have encouraged solar panel and EV makers in China to invest in factories, building far more production capacity than the domestic market can absorb.

While that has driven down prices for consumers, Western governments fear that that capacity will flood their markets with low-priced exports, threatening American and European jobs.

But Li argued that the development of the green energy industry in China would make an important contribution to combating climate change, the Xinhua report said.

The U.S. and China on Saturday agreed to hold “ intensive exchanges ” on more balanced economic growth, according to a U.S. statement issued after Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng held extended meetings over two days in the southern city of Guangzhou.

They also agreed to start exchanges on combating money laundering. It was not immediately clear when and where the talks would take place.

“As the world’s two largest economies, we have a duty to our own countries and to the world to responsibly manage our complex relationship and to cooperate and show leadership on addressing pressing global challenges,” Yellen said.

Relations were at a low point when she visited in July in the early stages of efforts to improve ties.

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China had cut off talks on a range of issues in anger over a visit by then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in 2022. Tensions were further inflamed by a Chinese balloon that traversed America in early 2023 before being shot down by a U.S. fighter jet.

In that context, Yellen’s visit is an attempt to build on a fragile stability that has been established.

The end of her trip will overlap with a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday and Tuesday that was announced by China’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday.

China’s sharp rise in trade with the Kremlin has increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. While China does not provide weapons to Russia, the U.S. has expressed concern about China’s sale of items to Russia that can have military as well as civilian uses.

During a press conference Saturday, Yellen addressed the U.S. relationship with China on the subject of Russia.

“We think there’s more to do, but I do see it as an area where we’ve agreed to cooperate and we’ve already seen some meaningful progress,” she said. “They understand how serious an issue this is to us.”

Yellen also met Sunday with Beijing Mayor Yin Yong and told him that “local governments play a critical (economic) role, from boosting consumption to addressing overinvestment,” adding that Beijing is particularly important in China.

“I believe that to understand China’s economy and its economic future, engagement with local government is essential,” Yellen said.

Later Sunday, Yellen met with students and faculty at Peking University.

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