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Report: CIA Chief Secretly Visited China Amid Tensions

    Report: CIA Chief Secretly Visited China Amid Tensions
    Last updated Jun 03, 2023
    Image credit: US Department of State/Flickr [via Wikimedia Commons]

    Facts

    • CIA Director Bill Burns covertly traveled to Beijing last month to meet with his Chinese counterparts and stress the importance of keeping the lines of communication open, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing five people familiar with the matter.
    • Burns is the highest-level US official to visit the PRC since the February suspected Chinese spy balloon incident. He has often been deployed by Pres. Joe Biden on sensitive, secret missions, including to Afghanistan and Russia in 2021.
    • This comes as Washington seeks to thaw relations with Beijing and re-engage diplomatic channels to prevent a potential miscommunication leading to conflict, as they have been under strain over issues ranging from Taiwan, human rights, the South China Sea, and Russia.
    • National security adviser Jake Sullivan traveled to Vienna to meet China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier last month, and Sec. of Commerce Gina Raimondo last week hosted her counterpart Wang Wentao, who became the first top Chinese official to visit Washington since 2020.
    • Also last week, Beijing's new ambassador to Washington, Xie Feng, arrived in the US to fill a position that had been vacant for four months, with Biden projecting a "thaw very soon" during the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, despite the group vowing to act tougher on China in areas other than the economy.
    • Yet, Beijing on Monday rebuffed a meeting between US Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin and his counterpart Li Shangfu. Meanwhile, Sec. of State Antony Blinken's visit to China and a phone call between Xi Jinping and Biden have been put on hold.

    Spin

    Pro-China narrative

    If the Biden admin. really wants to thaw bilateral relations with Beijing, it should start respecting China's core interests and taking concrete actions to match its words instead of merely engaging in superficial interactions to restore high-level communications. While the US has indeed changed its rhetoric, its true intentions of containing China haven't changed at all.

    Anti-China narrative

    Though the US has been trying to mend ties with China following months of strained relations, the predicted thaw has been obstructed as Beijing adopts a tougher stance with regard to tech export controls and demands the dropping of sanctions imposed on its officials and companies. If China remains intransigent, pushing to set its own terms to re-engage with the US, cooling tensions will be very difficult.

    Nerd narrative

    There's an 8% chance that there will be active warfare between the US and China before 2027, according to the Metaculus prediction community.


    Establishment split

    CRITICAL

    PRO

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