VOA Exclusive: Blinken to Meet Veteran Chinese Diplomat Liu Before Taiwan Election

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to meet with veteran Chinese diplomat Liu Jianchao in Washington on Friday, a day before Taiwan’s election, as the United States continues to caution China against using the election as a pretext for instability.

Communication between the world’s two largest economies will continue after Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections on January 13, as senior officials from the United States and China are slated to attend next week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

On Friday, Blinken will hold talks at the U.S. State Department with Liu, who heads the Chinese Communist Party’s international department responsible for maintaining relations with foreign political parties.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the State Department’s top diplomat on East Asian and Pacific affairs, will join the hourlong meeting, according to people familiar with the planning.

Next week, Blinken and Chinese Premier Li Qiang will attend the annual economic meetings at the Swiss mountain resort.

The talks are described as ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication, responsibly manage differences between the two nations and address a host of issues.

These include combating the fentanyl crisis as well as global and regional security concerns. Taiwan will also be among the topics.

Washington has voiced its opposition to “outside interference or malign influence” in Taiwan’s elections.

The winner of Taiwan’s presidential election will be inaugurated on May 20. The transition period in the upcoming months is seen as sensitive in cross-strait relations.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters late Wednesday that Beijing would be “the provocateur” if it chooses to respond to Taiwan’s election results with additional military pressure or coercion.

“Throughout this election and transition period, we will ensure that channels of communication remain open with Beijing, including diplomatic and the recently reopened military-to-military channels, in keeping with past precedent and our unofficial relationship with Taiwan,” said the U.S. official.

A number of meetings

This week, U.S.-China officials are holding numerous meetings. The U.S. principal deputy national security adviser, Jon Finer, held lengthy talks with Liu on Wednesday.

The White House said the two sides discussed the ongoing implementation of key outcomes from last November’s summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, challenges in the Middle East and Russia’s war against Ukraine. Finer stressed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas held virtual talks on Wednesday with Chinese Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong, discussing the combatting of the illicit flow of synthetic drugs.

Science and Technology Agreement

At the State Department, officials from the two countries discussed the extension of the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement, or STA, which is due to expire next month. Officials will meet again during the week of January 22 to discuss the extension.

Late last August, Washington agreed to extend the agreement with China for six months. The short-term extension comes as several Republican congressional members voice concern that China has previously leveraged the agreement to advance its military objectives and may continue to do so.

At that time, the State Department stated the brief extension would maintain the STA’s validity while the U.S. negotiates with China to amend and strengthen the agreement.

A call for reciprocity

Some former U.S. officials are skeptical about whether frequent talks can fundamentally change Beijing’s behaviors, which are deemed as harming Washington’s national interests. They also advocate for “reciprocity.”

“Every time a People’s Republic of China [PRC] emissary is allowed to address the American people, an American emissary needs to be able to directly address the Chinese people. If the PRC won’t accept this, then we are foolish to keep giving people like Liu direct access,” said David Stilwell, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Liu delivered a speech on Tuesday during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Liu is seen as a contender to be China’s next foreign minister, according to some media reports and analysts.

“Liu has taken on a more active diplomatic role and has been performing tasks typically handled by China’s foreign minister,” said Chechuan Lee, a research fellow at the Taipei-based quasi-official Institute for National Defense and Security Research.