U.S. & Chinese finance ministers lay groundwork for Biden-Xi meeting

November 9, 2023

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, were set to meet in San Francisco Thursday to begin two days of talks aimed at laying the groundwork for an expected meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping next week.

Yellen and He were planning to hammer out a number of economic issues that have contributed to rising U.S.-Chinese tensions in recent months.

The meeting between the two finance ministers comes roughly two weeks after China’s top diplomat, senior Foreign Policy Adviser Wang Yi, visited Washington to meet with top U.S. officials, including President Biden and Wang’s counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Xi similarly met with Blinken in June when the top U.S. diplomat traveled to Beijing for talks with Wang.

However, analysts have said expectations should be kept low regarding the Yellen-He meetings, and White House sources have said the Biden Administration does not expect any major breakthroughs to come out of the Biden-Xi meeting.

Yet the White House believes the two sides will be able to make some modest announcements following the Presidents’ meeting, though the fundamental relationship may remain unchanged. 

Already heightened tensions were only made worse after the Pentagon in February shot down what it says was a Chinese surveillance balloon over South Carolinian waters after it had crossed the continental U.S. 

Tensions have been further aggravated by China’s harassment of U.S. vessels and aircraft in and over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Beijing has also been saber-rattling against its self-governing neighbor, Taiwan, for months. The U.S. has suspected for some time that China is planning to invade Taiwan, though Beijing has been watching and waiting to see how Russia fairs in its invasion of Ukraine before going forth with an assault against the island nation, just one hundred miles off China’s coast.

In August, Biden signed an executive order aimed at regulating and blocking U.S. high-tech investments in China, asserting the order was designed to protect national security. Last year, the U.S. blocked exports of advanced computer chips to China.

Yellen has met with a number of Chinese officials this past year to discuss economic policies and to urge Beijing to cooperate on climate change and other global issues, despite sharp disagreements on trade and other matters.

PHOTO: Janet Yellen and He Lifeng in Beijing in July

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