During Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing, the highest-level official from the Biden administration to visit China since January 2021, a notable absence of protocol has raised eyebrows. Upon Blinken’s arrival, he was only met by Yang Tao, the director of North America and Oceania at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China. To the surprise of many, there was no red carpet on the tarmac, signaling a departure from the usual diplomatic treatment.
Discrepancy in Reception Treatment
Videos broadcasted by Chinese state media caught the attention of U.S. media outlets, such as Newsweek, highlighting the contrast in treatment. Observers noted that the absence of a red carpet stands in stark contrast to the reception French President Emmanuel Macron received during his visit to China in April of this year. Even Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit in March 2022 received a higher level of ceremonial reception. Some observers believe that this lack of protocol was a deliberate move by Chinese leadership to humiliate the top U.S. diplomat.
Comparisons to Previous Visits
In comparison, during Secretary of State John Kerry’s visits to China from 2013 to 2017, officials of the same level greeted him without a red carpet. Similarly, in 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not only greeted by officials of a similar level but was also welcomed with a red carpet.
Talks Yield Limited Progress
The talks between Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, which lasted nearly six hours, failed to bridge some of the deep-seated differences between the two countries. However, both sides acknowledged that it served as a potentially constructive starting point. The Chinese foreign ministry stated that China-U.S. relations were at their lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic ties. Nonetheless, both parties expressed a commitment to continue discussions and make progress on key issues.
Blinken is scheduled to continue his talks with Qin Gang and other senior officials on the 19th, with the visit potentially paving the way for a meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Biden in the coming months. The discussions raised a range of issues, including trade, human rights concerns in Taiwan and Hong Kong, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the proliferation of the opioid drug fentanyl in the United States.
As diplomatic tensions persist, the world watches closely to see how future engagements between the United States and China unfold.