An article by: Tommaso Baronio

On Thursday, she will travel to China for two days, trying to ease tensions between the world's major economic powers.

The thaw between China and the US continues. Following an important visit by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Chinese President Xi Jinping with the clear intention of restoring diplomatic channels and communications, another very important meeting will take place: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to Beijing on Thursday to meet with her Chinese counterpart.

This is a very important face-to-face meeting at the diplomatic level, following the international blunder by US President Joe Biden who called Xi Jinping a “dictator” during the election campaign fundraiser, prompting fierce Chinese protests.

Yellen, for her part, seems to be a person of poise, even in the words used publicly to describe the relationship between the two global giants. The finance minister actually described the thought of separating the two economies as “catastrophic” and shared the idea that the two countries “can and should find a way to live together.” In a speech at Johns Hopkins University in April, the official called for “cooperation on the urgent global challenges of our day” between the two countries to maintain world stability, while upholding the economic restrictions imposed on China to advance the national security interests of the United States.

The minister will spend a couple of days in China, until July 9, where she will meet with Chinese officials, American companies doing business in China, and citizens.

The goal is clear: to deepen and expand ties between the two powers, not by resolving existing substantial differences, but by clearing the path for a slow process of rapprochement. Topics to be covered during this visit will include stabilizing the global economy and China’s support for Russia in a war in the heart of Europe.

In particular, the issues and, above all, the controversies that will be addressed will certainly concern the recent ban imposed by China on Micron Technology, an American manufacturer of memory chips that are used in phones, computers, and other electronic devices. In May, the Chinese government banned companies that process mission-critical information from buying microchips produced by Micron, after the Biden administration recently moved to bar Chinese chipmakers from accessing critical tools necessary for production of advanced chips.

Yellen is also expected to express her concerns over human rights violations related to China’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is accused of massive detentions of Muslims. US officials also hope to better understand the scale of China’s new counterintelligence law, which could create new problems for foreign companies.

Obviously, also on the table is the Zambian debt restructuring agreement, whereas this country owes China $4.1 billion, in which the G20 countries will act as intermediaries. Finally, there is the TikTok dossier, as US lawmakers questioned the CEO Shou Zi Chew about data security and the social network’s ties to China.

It was a difficult visit that does not claim to have solved all existing problems, but it lays the first brick to restore a relationship that, if failed, as Yellen says, “would be destabilizing for the rest of the world. Instead, we know that the health of the Chinese and US economies are closely linked.”


Tommaso Baronio