Secretary of State Antony Blinken is looking to reschedule his trip to China that he canceled over the Chinese balloon that wound up floating over the US, but Beijing is rebuffing the effort, POLITICO reported Wednesday.
The POLITICO report said China has effectively frozen high-level contacts with US officials. An unnamed US official said that the Biden administration is also trying to schedule a call between President Biden and President Xi Jinping and send other high-level officials to China but isn’t having any luck.
Before the balloon incident, the US and China were making a point to engage at a high level despite soaring tensions. But since Blinken canceled his trip, and the US shot down the balloon, which ended up over US territory due to unexpected weather, the progress on engagement with Beijing has been reversed.
After the US shot down the balloon in February, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tried to contact his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, who has since been replaced. But China declined to take Austin’s call, and he hasn’t had any luck since then.
Wei was replaced by Li Shangfu, a Chinese general who is under US sanctions for being involved in China’s purchase of Russian weapons. The sanctions make US-China military communication even more difficult, and the Biden administration has not signaled it will lift them.
Tensions between the US and China soared even higher on Wednesday as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) hosted Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California. China repeatedly warned McCarthy and Tsai not to hold the meeting and is expected to respond with more military drills around Taiwan.