Xi, Biden Likely to Agree to Reopen Consulates, Report Says

  • Leaders may also ease visa curbs in a planned virtual summit
  • U.S. seeking dialogue on nuclear weapons, which China opposes

President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are likely to announce the reopening of consulates shuttered last year, Politico reported, which would be one of the biggest steps yet to repair ties fractured during the Trump administration.

The two leaders, who are planning a virtual summit in the near future, are also likely to announce an easing of visa restrictions, the news outlet reported Thursday, citing sources it didn’t identify. The U.S. is also seeking to make progress on trade and climate issues, as well as start a bilateral nuclear weapons dialogue – something Beijing has resisted.

The China Consulate General building in Houston, Texas, U.S., on July 22, 2020. Photographer: Scott Dalton/Bloomberg

 

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin responded to questions about the Politico report by saying “many incidents unilaterally provoked by the previous U.S. administration gravely undermined China-U.S. relations.”

“We hope the U.S. will redress its mistakes and work in the same direction with China to bring bilateral relations back on the right track,” Wang added at the regular press briefing Friday in Beijing. Wang said he had no new information to offer on plans for a meeting between Xi and Biden.

Ties between the U.S. and China have quietly improved in recent months even as they spar over Taiwan and alarm grows in Washington over Beijing’s nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon warned Wednesday that China is expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities more rapidly than previously believed, a development that comes after the U.S.’s top uniformed military officer, General Mark Milley, said China’s test of hypersonic systems was close to a “Sputnik moment” for America.

A group of four Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Biden urging him to make nuclear risk reduction measures with China a top priority in his meeting with Xi, which has yet to be scheduled. China, which resisted joining U.S.-Russia arms control discussions last year, sees such moves as “dragging” China into “unfair arms talks” to contain China and justify American moves to strengthen its nuclear capability, the Communist Party-backed Global Times said in a report Friday.

Still, overall U.S.-China exchanges have increased after relations hit rock bottom in the final year of Donald Trump’s presidency, as he poured pressure on Beijing after the pandemic hit during his re-election campaign.

Jim Mullinax, U.S. Consul General in Chengdu, left, speaks with a worker trying to remove a plaque from the front of the U.S. Consulate General Chengdu in Chengdu, China, on July 26, 2020. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

 

In July 2020, Washington told China to shutter its consulate in Houston, prompting Beijing to retaliate with an order for a U.S. diplomatic facility in the southwestern city of Chengdu to close. The Trump administration said the move was necessary because China directed criminal and covert activity to steal trade secrets and carry out malign influence operations across the U.S., though it never provided evidence of that.

The two nations also traded visa restrictions on students and journalists during Trump’s time in office.

Source: Bloomberg

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