As Blinken Heads to China, Suspicion Awaits Him

Professor Zhu, in Nanjing, said China was not resisting talks; it simply wanted to ensure that the United States would listen to its concerns, for example on access to semiconductor chips. “The most important thing for the Chinese side is that the topics of discussion can’t all be decided by the United States.”

Mr. Blinken expects to hear Chinese officials issue strong statements on Taiwan, and is bracing for criticism of the Biden administration’s recent ban on exports of some advanced semiconductor chips and manufacturing equipment to China, Daniel J. Kritenbrink, the top East Asia official in the State Department, told reporters on Wednesday.

Despite the low expectations for any significant agreements, some analysts said restarting substantial diplomacy was itself a worthy goal, at a time when U.S.-China relations are at what many consider their worst in decades.

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union at least had common expectations and norms of behavior that structured the competition, said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor who was senior Asia director on the National Security Council in the Obama administration. Those things do not exist between the United States and China now, he said.

“For Blinken, he walks into China under conditions of strategic terra incognita,” Professor Medeiros said. “This is all new ground.”

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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