China’s leadership reshuffle puts greater weight on relations with the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City on September 23, 2022.

David Dee Delgado | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s latest leadership appointment suggests a greater emphasis on ties with the US

Foreign Minister Wang Yi joined the new Politburo, the second-highest tier of power, state media said on Sunday. That’s despite expectations that he might retire.

The changes indicated that Yang Jiechi, a veteran diplomat closely associated with US-China relations, did not remain in the Politburo. Yang headed the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Party Central Committee and it was widely expected that he would retire.

Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to the United States, also made the list of new Central Committee members released on Saturday.

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Qin has been actively reaching out to American society and business, while Wang’s comments during a recent trip to New York “indicate a desire to withdraw from the intensely competitive relationship with the United States,” said Dali Yang, a political science professor at The University of Chicago .

“I think there might be a chance to hopefully ease tensions given the challenges China is facing to keep China’s economy growing,” Yang said.

He pointed out that the 1970s was another difficult period for China’s economy during the Cultural Revolution, but it was during this period that Chinese leader Mao Zedong decided to turn to the US

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The global pandemic that began in early 2020 has restricted international travel and China’s tight Covid controls have made it difficult for diplomats to meet.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden have not met in person since Biden took office. The two men had previously met while Biden held other government roles.

Biden said he would meet with Xi if the Chinese leader attended the G-20 summit in November.

When asked last week, China’s foreign ministry declined to confirm Xi’s attendance but said it would release an update in time.

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Qi Yu, party secretary of China’s foreign ministry, has also been appointed to the central committee, state media said on Saturday.

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Tensions between the US and China escalated during the Trump administration, which used tariffs and sanctions to pressure China over criticism of unfair business practices.

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The Biden administration then said the US was in competition with China and introduced many new restrictions, including this month a near-ban on US companies selling advanced chip technology to Chinese companies.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has strengthened ties with allies, particularly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. China, which hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, has refused to call the attack an invasion.

However, there are some signs that China’s relationship with Russia has cooled somewhat.

Le Yucheng, a deputy foreign minister who said in December 2021 that China’s friendship with Russia had “no limits,” was removed from his post in June. Instead, he was appointed deputy head of the National Radio and Television Administration without explanation.


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