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Treasury Secretary Yellen’s China Trip Aims to Steady Ties

Yellen is expected to discuss cooperation on climate change and global debt distress, plus concerns about China’s anti-espionage law in talks with senior finance officials in Beijing this week

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks at news conference in Washington (Reuters file photo).


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s trip to China this week aims to boost bilateral trade ties as well as cooperation on key issues such as climate change and global debt distress, US officials say.

US concerns about China’s anti-espionage law is another topic expected to be discussed in talks with senior Chinese officials, a senior Treasury official said on Sunday.

Yellen will travel to Beijing from Thursday July 6 till Sunday July 9 and is likely to touch on a broad range of issues, the official said.

Yellen’s long-anticipated trip is part of a push by President Joe Biden to deepen communications between the world’s two largest economies – to stabilise the relationship and minimise the risks of mistakes when disagreements arise, reporters were told.


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Yellen’s visit comes just weeks after Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing and agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to steady ties and ensure the two countries’ intense rivalry does not veer into conflict.

China protested loudly when Biden subsequently referred to Xi as a “dictator”, but analysts say the remark had little impact on efforts to improve ties.

The Treasury chief plans to tell China’s new economic team that Washington will continue to defend human rights and its own national security interests via targeted actions against China, but wants to work with Beijing on urgent challenges such as climate change and debt distress faced by many countries.

“We seek a healthy economic relationship with China, one that fosters growth and innovation in both countries,” the official said. “We do not seek to decouple our economies. A full cessation of trade and investment would be destabilising for both our countries and the global economy.”

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to give details on which Chinese officials Yellen would meet in Beijing. A second administration official said that Yellen was expected to meet the Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng.

Yellen would underscore Washington’s determination to strengthen its own competitiveness while responding with allies to what Washington calls “economic coercion” and unfair economic practices by China, the first official said.


Anti-espionage law could harm investment

One clear area of concern involved China’s new national security and espionage law, and the potential implications for foreign and US firms, the official added.

“We have concerns with the new measure, and how it might apply, that it could expand the scope of what is considered by the authorities in China to be espionage activity,” the official said, citing possible spillovers to the broader investment climate and the economic relationship.

While no major “breakthroughs” were expected, Treasury officials hope to have constructive conversations and build longer-term channels of communication with China’s new economic team, including at the sub-cabinet level, the official said.

US officials would also reiterate concerns about human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority, China’s recent move to ban sales of Micron Technology memory chips, and moves by China against foreign due diligence and consulting firms.

Yellen would also talk with Chinese officials about a long-awaited US executive action curbing outbound investment in China in certain critical sectors, and “make sure they don’t think something is more sweeping than it is or than it’s intended to be,” the official said.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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