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MODERATOR:  Greetings from the U.S. Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub.  I would like to welcome journalists to today’s on-the-record briefing with Daniel J. Kritenbrink, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Sarah Beran, Special Assistant to the President of the United States and U.S. National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs.  Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink and Senior Director Beran will discuss Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s June 18th to 19th visit to Beijing and U.S. efforts to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship.

With that, let’s get started.  Senior Director Beran, I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  Thanks so much.  I thought it might be useful to start with sort of a broad framing of where we are on U.S.-China relations before we turn to Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink and the trip in particular.

At the start of this administration, the PRC was convinced that the United States was in terminal decline.  There were doubts about our staying power around the world.  We had inherited an approach on China that had limited tools but had certainly focused on the challenge that China presented.  We spent the last two years building a bipartisan approach to China, focusing on investments in the United States on manufacturing innovation and tech, rebuilding and strengthening alliances and partnerships around the globe, and working with these partners to set the rules of the road.

The last piece, of course, and perhaps the most important – why you all are dialing in today – is to talk about how we manage the U.S.-China relationship.  Diplomacy is critical to managing competition, to ensuring we have functioning channels of communication, and to ensuring that competition does not veer into conflict.  This was the plan after the President met with President Xi in Bali last year.  It didn’t represent a strategic shift, but rather diplomacy is a critical part of the approach to China.  Again, finding areas where we can align our interests but also, and most importantly, crisis communications, managing that competition in a safe and responsible manner – that’s something the world expects and certainly that we prioritize.

The Secretary’s trip advanced this approach.  We expect visits in both directions – both to Beijing and to the United States – in the coming months to continue this work.  Secretary Yellen, SPEC Kerry, and then of course PRC ministers for APEC ministerials here in the United States as well.

The President’s channel with President Xi, of course, is critical as well, and as he has said, he looks forward to at some point in the future speaking or meeting with President Xi.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Sarah, thanks so much.  Everyone, we thought it would be useful to have Senior Director Beran give that laydown and provide, I think, the important context in which the visit took place, and very grateful to her for doing so.  I really want to thank all of you for joining us, whether it’s evening out here in the region or whatever time zone you may be in.  I’m dialing in from Tokyo, where I’ve arrived following two days of very candid, substantive, and constructive conversations in Beijing.

I think as everyone knows, of course, Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing for meetings with President Xi Jinping, Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang on June 18 and 19.  And really, just to further underscore the important context that Senior Direct Beran made a moment ago, let me just reiterate that over the past two and a half years, the United States has taken a series of purposeful, strategic steps at home and abroad to strengthen our country and our standing in the world.  We’ve made historic investments in our infrastructure, technology, industrial capacity, and competitiveness at home, and we’ve deepened our engagement and alignment with allies and partners around the world in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.  And of course that’s one of the reasons that I’m in Tokyo today.

And again, as Senior Director Beran noted, that’s the backdrop for the relationship between the United States and the PRC.  We’re clear-eyed about the challenges posed by the PRC, and we are committed to advancing a vision for the future that we share with so many others – a free, open, stable, and prosperous world with countries upholding and updating the rules-based order that has for years safeguarded peace and security globally.

To shape that future, we start with diplomacy, including with China.  I think as we had previewed a few days before the visit, President Biden had asked Secretary Blinken to travel to Beijing with the following three objectives in mind: one, strengthen high-level channels of communication; two, to make clear our positions and intentions in areas of disagreement; and three, to explore areas where we might work together where our interests align on shared transnational challenges.

And it’s clear to us that in Beijing, Secretary Blinken did all of those things.  He had candid, substantive, and constructive conversations – again, with President Xi, Director Wang, and State Councilor Qing.  Secretary Blinken’s overarching message in all of those meetings was to emphasize the importance of maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues so as to reduce the risk of miscalculation.  He made clear that while we will compete vigorously, the United States will responsibly manage that competition so that the relationship does not veer into conflict.  The Secretary stressed that the United States would continue to use diplomacy to raise areas of concern as well as areas of potential cooperation where our interests align.

During his meetings, the Secretary discussed key priorities in the bilateral relationship and a range of global and regional issues, and I want to highlight just a few of the areas that were discussed.

First, as the Secretary noted yesterday, the two sides did agree to continue discussions on developing principles to guide the bilateral relationship, as discussed by President Biden and President Xi in Bali.  The two sides encouraged further progress to address specific issues in the bilateral relationship through the joint working groups that were set up in 2021.  For example, both sides welcomed strengthening a people-to-people exchange between students, scholars, and business, and this includes a commitment to working to increase the number of direct flights between the two countries.

Secretary Blinken emphasized that it remains a priority for the United States to resolve the cases of American citizens who are wrongfully detained or subject to exit bans in China, and he also underscored the importance of working together to disrupt the global flow of synthetic drugs, especially fentanyl and their precursor chemicals, into the United States, which is fueling the fentanyl crisis.

On economic issues, the Secretary addressed the PRC’s unfair and non-market economic practices and recent actions against U.S. firms.  He discussed U.S. de-risking policies and the historic domestic investments that the U.S. administration has made.  This was a major area of focus during the two days of discussions.

The Secretary also raised concerns about PRC human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as individual cases of concern.

Secretary Blinken also underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and he reiterated that there has been no change to the longstanding U.S. “one China” policy.

The two sides discussed a range of global and regional issues, including Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the DPRK’s provocative actions, and U.S. concerns with PRC intelligence activities in Cuba.  The Secretary made clear that the United States will work with its allies and partners to advance our vision for a world that is free and open and that upholds the rules-based international order.

The two sides also underscored that the U.S. and China should work together to address shared transnational challenges such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability, food security, public health, and counternarcotics.  The Secretary encouraged further interaction between our governments on these and other areas because that’s what the world expects of us.

Both sides also agreed on follow-on senior engagements in Washington and Beijing to continue open lines of communication.  I think as you probably noted yesterday, Secretary Blinken stated that he had invited State Council and Foreign Minister Qin Gang to visit Washington to continue these discussions, and we are grateful that State Councilor Qin has agreed and our two sides have agreed to schedule a reciprocal visit at a mutually suitable time.

Let me stop there, and I’m now particularly interested in taking your questions.  Katie, back to you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will now turn to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.  Our first question goes to Tuan Dao of the Hanoi Times in Hanoi, Vietnam, who asks:  “Could you unveil some of the topics mentioned during Secretary Blinken’s meetings with Chinese officials and the significance of the trip to China?  Was the South China Sea touched with depth during the talks?”  Over to our speakers.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Thank you, Katie.  Why don’t I take an initial stab at this excellent question, then I’ll ask Sarah if she’d like to chime in as well.  So I hope that my opening has given you a general sense of some of the topics discussed, but let me again just emphasize here the primary purpose of Secretary Blinken’s trip was to make sure that we re-establish senior-level channels of communication so that most fundamentally, we can try to reduce the risk of misperception that could lead to miscalculation and conflict.  That was by far, I think, the most important objective of the trip, and I think therefore it was topics associated with that objective that dominated much of the conversation.

Both sides discussed their views of one another, their own intentions, and their interpretation of the intentions of the other side.  I think it is fair to say that there was a clear signal sent by both sides that we both believe that we have a shared interest in stabilizing the bilateral relationship and, again, reducing that risk of miscalculation.

I think it would be safe to say that the discussions, while constructive, were exceptionally direct and candid.  We did go through a range of areas where we have fundamental disagreements, and I think I’ve reviewed some of those for you here.  We talked about some of the key international issues of the day, including Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, and we talked about issues associated with the Korean Peninsula and concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.  And we did in fact talk about maritime issues, including the South China Sea, and in the course of that discussion Secretary Blinken had the opportunity again to underscore the longstanding American position that we stand for the freedom of navigation, the freedom of overflight.  We believe that all countries should ensure that their maritime claims are rooted in international law, that claims ought to be resolved in accordance with international law, and in all instances disputes should be resolved peacefully.

There were a number of other discrete issues discussed, as I mentioned, and I think the Secretary outlined some of that last night, including America’s fundamental concern over the status of a number of detained American citizens in China, our strong demand that we increase our cooperation and that China take steps to control the flow of chemical precursors that are used in the synthesization of fentanyl and opioids in the United States.

And we also talked about promoting people-to-people ties, including through increasing commercial flights between the two countries, and that’s something that we’re going to work on as well.

I hope that gives you a general sense.  Maybe I should underscore just one – maybe two more subjects that I think featured prominently in the discussions.  I think the situation across the Taiwan Strait, I think, was discussed extensively between the two sides.  And Secretary Blinken underscored again the fact that our “one China” policy rooted in the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances has not changed.  We continue to have an abiding interest in the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and we continue to insist that cross-strait differences be resolved peacefully.

I think, as well, another major topic of discussion was the economic and trade relationship between the United States and China.  And the Secretary was quite clear in trying to – in trying to refute the Chinese misperception that America is pursuing decoupling.  And he stated clearly we are not pursuing decoupling; we are pursuing a de-risking strategy.  And he made very clear that, obviously, given the hugely important U.S. and China trade relationship that nothing could be further from the truth.  There is no decoupling strategy, but America will, of course, pursue a de-risking strategy.  But given the nearly $700 billion in annual trade flows and the fact that U.S. investment in China is at its highest level since 2014, I think it’s quite clear what our approach is and is not.

Why don’t I stop there and see if Senior Director Beran wanted to add anything.

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  Thanks so much, Dan.  Maybe just one additional point on the question about the significance of the trip.  As folks will remember, the two leaders – President Biden and President Xi – last November in Bali agreed that Secretary Blinken would travel to China.  So again, this trip we see as just returning to that Bali agenda, reinvigorating diplomacy, stabilizing the relationship, and reopening the channels of communication.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you.  Our next question was upvoted in the questions and answers tab.  It comes from Dawn Tan from The Straits Times’ China bureau.  Dawn asks, “Director Wang Yi in his meeting with Secretary Blinken said the root cause of strained relations between the U.S. and China is a wrong perception of China that the U.S. holds.  I believe he is primarily referring to perceptions about China’s ambitions to displace the U.S. or to be, as China likes to describe it, a hegemon.  Do you think the U.S. has a wrong perception of China?  What would be your response to what he and other Chinese officials have repeatedly said about this supposedly erroneous perception?”  Over to our speakers.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Katie, why don’t – why don’t I try that first, and again would be happy to have Sarah express her views as well.

I would say I think it’s an excellent question, and I would start by stating that it highlights the fundamental reason why I think diplomatic engagement at the senior level is so important.  The successful and responsible management of the U.S.-China relationship will only be possible if this is a two-way street.  It simply doesn’t reflect reality and would not be reasonable to assert that all problems and tensions in the bilateral relationship are caused by one party or by one single reason.

And I think that – I think that through the course of these two days of discussions in Beijing, I think Secretary Blinken was able to clearly and forcefully explain what American policy is and is not.  I think he was also able to explain in great detail the range of concerns that the United States of America has with certain PRC actions, why the United States will always act in defense of our interests and those of our partners and allies, but that our doing so is certainly not rooted in a wrong perception of China and certainly has nothing to do with some of the accusations that are sometimes leveled that supposedly America is pursuing either a decoupling or a containment strategy.  We are pursuing a strategy in which we are promoting a free and open, interconnected, secure, prosperous, and resilient region in which all countries large and small play by the same rules, and all countries operate in accordance with the rules-based international order.  That’s our focus.  But again, I think the question is a good one.  And the fact that the two sides were able to, I think, exchange views so directly on such fundamental questions proves the value of such exchanges.

Sarah, can I turn it over to you?

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  Yes.  Sorry, just a moment.  Thanks for your patience, folks.  Yes, I’d step back just a little bit and say we see growing concerns not just bilaterally with the U.S. and China but also in Asia and Europe about PRC actions, whether it’s economic coercion, human rights, China backing away from the status quo in cross-strait issues.  I really think this broadening concern about PRC behavior shows this isn’t a bilateral issue, it’s a growing concern about PRC behavior that is motivating many partners in the region and beyond to take steps to re-engage with diplomacy in China and raise these concerns directly.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question goes to the live queue, Raffy Cabristante from ABS-CBN News in the Philippines.  Raffy, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Good afternoon.  I would like to know what Blinken’s visit to China would mean for the Philippines due to the fine balance of our country’s relationship between both the U.S. and China, of course the U.S. being a longtime ally of the Philippines since the 1950s, especially with the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea.  What can the Philippines and the ASEAN region as a whole expect from these talks between Washington and Beijing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Raffy, thank you for an excellent question.  I think what I would say is that, again, the United States of America has demonstrated just how important the Indo-Pacific region is to our shared security and prosperity.  I think we’ve demonstrated clearly, including through Senior Director Beran’s initial laydown, the strength of our commitment, the depth and breadth of our commitment to the region, and our commitment, I think, first and foremost, to a rules-based international order, and our commitment to the security and defense of our allies as well.

At the same time, we believe that it is critically important, including in the regional context, that the United States and China work hard to responsibly manage the growing competition between us.  We have made clear that we will stand up to and we will counter a range of concerns that we have with Chinese activities, including in the South China Sea and including those directed at some of our key partners and allies, such as the Philippines.  But at the same time, again, I’ll just reiterate we’re absolutely committed to keeping our channels of communication open with Beijing so that we, again, responsibly manage this competition, responsibly manage the range of issues before us, and most importantly, prevent the risk of miscalculation.

Sarah, would you like to add to that?

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  No, I think you covered it.  Thanks.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  Our next question goes to the live queue, to Bingru Wang being from Phoenix TV based in Washington.  Bingru, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Can you hear me?


QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you so much for this opportunity.  I want to ask, talking about the high-level communication channels, we haven’t seen any breakthrough regarding military-to-military talk.  Could you please talk about why – what’s the obstacle, and what more needs to be done?  Thank you.

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  Thanks.  I can take that one, Dan, if that makes sense —


SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  — and welcome anything you have to add.  Look, this is certainly an issue that Secretary Blinken raised repeatedly in all of the meetings.  This is an absolutely critical way for us to manage competition, crisis communication, ensure that there is not miscommunication or misperception about each other’s intentions.  We think mil-to-mil communication channels are absolutely critical to managing competition.

Our side has been willing to meet.  As you probably are aware, Secretary Austin offered a meeting in Shangri-La to his Chinese counterpart.  We remain willing and able at all levels to meet, and call on China to respond affirmatively to that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  I fully agree with everything that the senior director has said.  And again, we think that responsible powers should engage one another and should keep channels of communication open at all times.  I think it’s particularly important that we do that between our two militaries.  I think when tensions are high, that is when it’s most important that our two sides be talking to one another, and Secretary Blinken indicated we will keep working at that issue to try to achieve that outcome.

MODERATOR:  All right, I think we have time for one more question from the questions and answers tab.  We have Kensaku Watanabe from Jiji Press, based in Tokyo, who asks:  “National Security Advisor Sullivan suggested nuclear arms control was one of the issues Secretary Blinken would raise when he met Chinese officials in Beijing.  Did Secretary Blinken discuss the issue with Chinese counterparts and President Xi?”  Over to our speaker.

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  Thanks so much for that.  This is an issue that certainly came up in Dan’s and my meetings last week in Beijing with the MFA, as well as in the meetings with Director Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.  Again, this is an area that we think it is critical for two nations like the United States and China to be talking, to be communicating about intentions, about the possibility for crisis communications.  I think this is an area we’ll continue to work to try to dig into and have a constructive conversation.  But up until now, we have not been able to start or establish a regular line or channel of communication on this issue set.

MODERATOR:  All right.  With that, if we don’t have anything more on that question, I will turn it over to our speakers for closing remarks.  Senior Director Beran, if you have – if you’d like to start, I can turn it over you, and then we’ll go to Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink to wrap us up.

SENIOR DIRECTOR BERAN:  Well, thank you so much for joining us today.  It’s good to talk, and glad we had a chance to answer some of your questions.  I’ll leave it at that and turn it back over to Dan.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Thank you, Sarah.  Thank you, Katie.  And most importantly, thank you to all of our journalist friends for joining us this evening.  This is a really important conversation on, I think, an extremely important topic.  Again, I’ll just reiterate Secretary Blinken went to Beijing with the goals in mind of reopening our senior-level channels of communication to manage responsibly this relationship, to have an opportunity to exchange views candidly, including on areas of difference, and to explore potential areas of cooperation where it’s in our interest to do so.  We think the Secretary did all of that.  As he underscored last night, this is just an initial first step.  And I think the candid and constructive meetings that he had made a real contribution towards those goals.  And again, we’re going to keep at these issues and continue to work to responsibly manage the competition between us.

But thanks again for the opportunity to discuss this with you, and I look forward to our next opportunity to do so.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you, Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink.  Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for today.  And I’m really sorry we couldn’t get to every question that was submitted or in the live queue.  Thank you for participating, and thank you so much to our speakers for joining us.

We will provide a transcript of this briefing to participating journalists as soon as is available.  We’d also love to hear your feedback, and you can contact us at any time at  Thanks again for your participation and we hope that you can join us for another briefing soon.

U.S. Department of State

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