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China, US Meeting Could Slowly Mend Relations

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi attend a meeting in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali Saturday, July 9, 2022.

A five-hour meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi set the stage for gradually improving relations, analysts told VOA on Monday, though immediate progress is not expected.

Wang and Blinken met Saturday at the G-20 talks in Bali, Indonesia, their first in-person encounter since May when Blinken first publicized President Joe Biden's strategy to compete with China.

They exchanged views on a list of issues that have troubled the two superpowers over the past five years.

Blinken and Wang pressed each other on core issues of disagreement, with Blinken lamenting that China had aligned with Russia during the war in Ukraine, and Wang telling the U.S. not to make an "overwhelming mistake" on Taiwan — a self-ruled island and informal American ally that Beijing claims as its own.

Those issues, along with trade, Chinese military activity in the disputed South China Sea and U.S. perceptions of human rights problems in China, have kept ties icy since former President Donald Trump's term.

"I think Blinken is signaling very clearly that he is not satisfied towards China's actions in the South China Seas, and as well as (in) East Asia and Taiwan," said Sean Su, an independent political analyst in Taiwan. "All these are indicative of continued U.S.

interest in the East Asian area, and (that) is not going to be giving too much space for the Sinosphere to expand its power."

The duo reached no deals Saturday, but the fact that they met could augur an eventual warming of relations, some experts believe. The two governments are now planning a virtual meeting between their leaders as soon as the end of July, VOA reported Monday

"I don't see evidence that either side is making serious compromises or concessions, but dialogue is important," said Timothy Heath, senior international defense researcher at the U.S.-based Rand Corp. "It is helpful to hear that message from the other side."

Both sides hope to "de-escalate" the tension, Heath said, as they recognize each other's role in improving their economies and the world's. "Neither side is eager for a fight," he said.

A senior State Department official said the simultaneous interpretation during Saturday's meetings allowed for longer discussions, including a "pretty in-depth exchange, more specifically on areas that we disagree, including human rights and concerns over the stability across the Taiwan Strait."

The next move could come from a third party, said Satu Limaye, vice president of the East-West Center in Hawaii.

"I am watching to see if U.S. domestic legislation to compete with China moves (ahead) and how key allies and partners assess ongoing high-level U.S.-China discussions," Limaye said. By itself, he said, "the Blinken-Yi visit has not moved the dial on the troubled state of U.S.-China relations."