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Sinica Podcast

Mr. Blinken goes to Beijing, with former NSC China Director Dennis Wilder

Mon Jun 19 2023

The China Project

00:00 - 07:10

  • The China Project is hiring sales people for B2B subscription accounts, event sponsors, and partnerships.
  • Access from the China Project provides daily dispatch newsletters, original writing on their website, reported stories, essays, editorials, explainers, track workers and podcasts.
  • Kaiser Guo interviews Dennis Wilder about Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's trip to Beijing.
  • Dennis Wilder is the managing director for the initiative for US-China dialogue on global issues at Georgetown University.
  • The initiative promotes student-to-student relationships and faculty research between Georgetown and various Chinese universities and professors.
  • Secretary Blinken's visit was a reset after disagreements over Taiwan issues and American decisions to restrict high-tech exports to China.
  • Both sides set modest expectations but accomplished them with candid and constructive meetings.

Improving US-China Relationship

06:43 - 14:22

  • Both sides wanted a constructive start to some tactical improvements in the relationship.
  • The balloon incident was an act of espionage against the United States and not victimization of China.
  • There is no value in pursuing this issue with the Chinese anymore as we are not going to get an apology from them.
  • There is an FBI report that has been given to the US, which may embarrass the Chinese when it's released.
  • The Biden administration seems to have accepted the explanation that it was blown off course and that diminishes its significance.
  • China says that the United States is talking about wanting a better relationship but not walking the walk of a better relationship.
  • Janet Yellen, Ramondo, and Kerry will be sent to Beijing by the US administration to improve relations with China.
  • Biden wants meetings with Xi Jinping later this year at G20 summit in India and APEC granted meeting.
  • There were back-channel conversations happening between CIA Director William Burns and China. They discussed counterterrorism and fentanyl.

Private Individuals in China and CIA Director Burns' Visit

13:53 - 21:41

  • It is unclear what exactly private individuals in China are doing in terms of sending precursors to the United States.
  • Triads and other organized crime groups may also be involved.
  • CIA Director Burns could have been used in several different ways during his visit to China, but he is an excellent diplomat.
  • Intel leaks ahead of scheduled meetings between senior officials from the US and China are becoming routine.
  • Leaked information appears to be deliberately throwing a spanner into the State Department's diplomatic machinery every time it gears up for an effort to make progress with China.
  • Beijing's recent openness to high-level diplomacy with the US may be driven by economic concerns, including supply chain redirection and emerging technology restrictions.
  • The Chinese economy is not doing well, and they are worried about losing American business. They want major players to lobby Washington on their behalf.
  • The meeting between Secretary of State Blinken and his Chinese counterpart was successful overall, but there needs to be more progress made quickly on military-to-military exchanges.

Chinese Military Actions and US-China Relationship

21:13 - 29:05

  • The Chinese military's aggressive actions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait are worrisome.
  • It is unclear who is giving orders to the Chinese military.
  • Another accident like the April 2001 EP3 incident could lead to a difficult situation in the US-China relationship.
  • Renewing the military-to-military relationship is necessary.
  • The decline of Chinese agreement to re-establish cooperation means exchanges, coordination, and direct communication.
  • Hotlines are not important because Chinese commanders don't have latitude in those kinds of phone calls to be candid or forthright with American counterparts.
  • Working groups that used to tackle problems like incidents at sea and rules of the road in military when American forces and Chinese forces are in close proximity need to be renewed.
  • Chinese officials were displeased with Secretary Blinken's visit, which was evident from their greeting at the airport.
  • Xi Jinping must have given an order for a substantive meeting between Foreign Minister Tingong and Secretary Blinken.

Meeting Between Blinken and Chinese Officials

28:40 - 36:44

  • Xi Jinping gave the order to Qingan for a substantive meeting with Blinken.
  • The Chinese wanted to get back to the principles established in Bali between President Biden and President Xi.
  • The Qing Gong discussion of different issues reflected that desire.
  • The meeting was fruitful and diplomatic, with no blame laid at the feet of the US.
  • There may have been a good cop/bad cop strategy going on between Ching-Gang and Wang Yi.
  • Taiwan was an important issue for both sides, but there was nothing different this time around when it came to Taiwan in any of the three meetings that he had.
  • While China likes hearing reassurances about US policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, they are seeing the United States doing things that they think are not consistent with their one China policy.
  • China did not directly address Ukraine during their readout, as they do not want to upset Europe or be seen as hypocritical.
  • A flurry of diplomatic activity is coming up on the rest of the year.

Future Diplomatic Activity and Improvements in US-China Relationship

36:14 - 44:20

  • Diplomatic activity expected to increase for the rest of the year.
  • Boykin Trips cleared for Tina Ramondo, Janet Yellen, and John Kerry to visit China by end of year.
  • Expect Biden to attend G20 in India in September and APEC in November.
  • GOP may use engagement with China as a partisan cudgel during election year.
  • Biden administration seems less concerned about soft on China attacks from GOP.
  • Administration was worried about dangerous drop in relationship due to recent PLA activities near American ships and fighter exercises against Americans.
  • Relationship is fragile and another incident could cause it to spiral down again easily.
  • Recent visit did not address underlying issue of mistrust between US and China.
  • New air agreement, journalist agreement, exit bans on Americans, jailing of Americans are areas that could be improved upon by China to signal positive movement in relationship.
  • Chinese government has not approved 10 major economic agreements between American companies and Chinese regional airlines. Approval would signal positive movement in relationship.
  • Outbound investment executive could be made more flexible for American companies. Easing up on tariffs could also help improve relationship.

Positive Signals and Cultural Recommendations

43:55 - 51:34

  • Both US and China can signal positive movement in various areas to each other before APEC meetings.
  • US allies across the world will feel more room to maneuver diplomatically now that US-China relations are less acrimonious.
  • Singapore has been vocal about not taking sides in the issue and having good relations with both nations.
  • Europeans agree on de-risking but not on harder line intense competition idea.
  • "The Iraq War" by Stephen Hadley is a volume of top secret documents written by National Security Council members during Bush administration, which were recently declassified. It gives a glimpse inside the policy making process at a very high level and is an important document for historians, students, and academics.
  • "Cosmic Library" podcast from Literary Hub is focusing on Journey to the West this season. It's a fun series with lots of interviews and tangentially related topics.
  • "The Thirty Years War" by C.V. Wedgwood is actually great and sly.

Additional Information

51:13 - 52:56

  • The speaker reread the introduction of a book and found it to be excellent.
  • He apologizes for being dismissive of the book earlier.
  • Dennis Wilder is an interesting person to follow on Twitter (@DennisW5).
  • The Cinecom Podcast is produced and edited by Kaiser Guo.
  • Listeners can drop an email at or give a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.
  • Follow Cinecom on Twitter or Facebook @actthechinaproject.
  • Check out all the shows in the Cinecom Network.