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US-China Need ‘Tough’ Conversations, Yellen Tells Li Qiang

The US treasury secretary held talks with the Chinese premier during an 80-minute-long meeting in Beijing as part of her week-long trip to China

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen walks with US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns to attend a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen walks with US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns to attend a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Photo: Reuter


US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday and called for ‘tough’ conversations between Washington and Beijing to keep ties stable.

“While we have more to do, I believe that, over the past year, we have put our bilateral relationship on more stable footing,” Yellen said.

“This has not meant ignoring our differences or avoiding tough conversations. It has meant understanding that we can only make progress if we directly and openly communicate with one another.”


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Chinese Premier Li responded that the two countries needed to respect each other and should be partners, not adversaries. He added that “constructive progress” had been made during Yellen’s trip.

Yellen and Li held an 80-minute-long meeting in Beijing on Sunday as part of the treasury secretary’s week-long trip to China. She said Washington and Beijing had a “duty” to responsibly manage the complex relationship.

Yellen will be in China until Tuesday as part of the trip during which she aims to raise concerns about China’s over-production of electric vehicles (EVs), solar panels and other clean energy goods.

She has previously said China’s trade and manufacturing practices will hurt producers and jobs in the US and other countries. And she has stuck to that script for the course of her trip so far.

During Sunday’s meeting too she raised concerns about China’s excess industrial capacity to Li.


‘No ideological pushback from China’

A senior US Treasury official said later that China’s excess industrial capacity and the government support that has fueled it were discussed at length during the meeting and Li showed some willingness to have US and Chinese economic teams explore the issue further.

Although there were some differences of opinion, “there was not ideological or inflammatory pushback,” the official said. “It was a much more legitimate conversation of policymakers.”

State news agency Xinhua on Sunday quoted Li saying the US should “refrain from turning economic and trade issues into political or security issues” and view the issue of production capacity from a market-oriented and global perspective”.

The development of China’s clean energy sector, where overcapacity concerns are felt most acutely, will support the global energy transition, Xinhua quoted Li as saying.



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Stabilising ties

Yellen also met her main economic counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, on Saturday in Guangzhou.

The two agreed to launch a dialogue focused on “balanced growth”. Yellen said she intends to use the forum to advocate for a level playing field with China to protect US workers and businesses.

This is Yellen’s second visit to China in nine months.

Her first visit, in July 2023, was all business as she sought to normalise bilateral economic relations after a period of heightened tension caused by differences over issues ranging from Taiwan to Covid-19’s origins and trade disputes.

In more signs easing ties, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to manage tensions over the South China Sea in a nearly two-hour call on Tuesday, their first direct talks since a summit in November.

US and Chinese military officials also met in Hawaii last week for a series of rare meetings focused on operational safety and professionalism.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena


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Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at [email protected]


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