Chinese, US ratchet up economic dialogue to reduce tensions

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Chinese and US officials are likely to hold more talks on trade and economy, as Vice Premier He Lifeng started his visit to the US on Wednesday, at the invitation of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, another major step to stabilize bilateral ties.

And, in a speech in Singapore on Wednesday, Chinese Vice President Han Zheng, who is China’s lead person for China-US trade and economic dialogue, said that recent high-level contacts between China and the US have lifted the international community’s positive expectations for China-US relations, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

During his keynote speech at the sixth Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Han said that China is willing to strengthen communication and dialogue with the US, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, properly manage their differences and make joint efforts to address global challenges.

While details about Vice-Premier He’s trip to the US remained unclear as of Wednesday, Yellen said in an opinion piece published on the Washington Post on Monday that she will host He in San Francisco, “as we engage in more intensive diplomacy designed to further stabilize the relationship and make progress on key issues.”

The upcoming talks are expected to inject more momentum into interactions between Chinese and American officials, and will likely focus on addressing economic and trade issues of mutual concern, according to Chinese trade experts.

“With the recent frequent interactions, the overall momentum between China and the US is improving, and such momentum is seen in not just the economic and trade areas but also other fields,” Hu Qimu, a deputy secretary-general of the digital-real economies integration Forum 50 who follows China-US trade ties, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Facing high inflation and high levels of government debt, the US has shown great willingness to stabilize economic ties with China, and there are areas where the two countries can make progress, including expanding trade in areas of mutual benefit and addressing issues of mutual concern, Hu said.

Already, there has been some progress by the two sides in expanding talks. In September, China and the US agreed to set up two working groups for economic and financial matters. On October 24, the China-US economic working group held its first meeting via video link, and one day later, officials held the first meeting of the financial working group. The two working groups will meet again this week, according to Yellen.

During the upcoming dialogue, the Chinese team will likely focus on how to resolve the US sanctions against Chinese entities and the additional tariffs imposed on Chinese products, Hu said.

Despite repeatedly stating that they are not seeking to “decouple” from or contain China, US officials have imposed more restrictions on Chinese companies, including an executive order on restrictions of high-end artificial intelligence chips last month.

Yellen once again warned against “decoupling”, but also stressed “competition with China” and repeated a slew of US grievances about China, including “barriers to market access” and other claims that have been repeatedly rejected by Chinese officials.

Experts said that such rhetoric suggests that while the US is seeking to stabilize ties with China, it would also likely continue its hostile postures in many areas.

“Bilateral ties are currently warming up, but the ‘heat’ must come with concrete actions,” Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Li said that more concrete actions are needed from Washington to demonstrate its stated position of not seeking to “decouple” from or contain China.

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