An article by: Tommaso Baronio

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's visit lays a stronger foundation for ongoing diplomatic dialogue

What will remain after the four-day stay in Beijing by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen?

Another solid foundation on which to build slowly. The journey opened the way for bigger and better communications between the most important officials of the two countries. A modest result, which does seem incredible in the context of a trade war.

“I am expecting this visit to help build a strong and productive communication channel,” Yellen said at the end of her trip. These words confirm the intention to cooperate in the common direction of peaceful coexistence between the world’s two leading forces. Thus, the role of diplomacy is once again becoming central to the dialogue between China and the USA. “My hope,” the US Treasury Secretary said, “is to switch to a phase of our relationship where high-level diplomacy is simply seen as a natural element of managing the world’s major bilateral relations.”

China, for its part, has lamented US economic moves, seen by Beijing as readiness to hinder its own growth by blocking commercial exchanges between the two countries and sanctioning microchips needed for advanced information technology.

Even in the face of these accusations, Yellen was not upset and noted that despite “significant disagreements” between the two countries, Washington does not consider its economic power to be a weapon against China. “President Biden and I do not view the relations between the US and China as a conflict between superpowers. We believe the world is big enough for both of our countries.” Furthermore, America sees trade and ties with China as fundamental to global prosperity. “We know that disconnecting the world’s two major economies would be detrimental to both countries and destabilizing to the entire world. And it would be almost impossible to accomplish.”

The treasury secretary listened carefully to what Chinese officials had to say, but didn’t miss an opportunity to further express US priorities. She clearly explained that the USA will not waive the necessary economic audits to protect its national security, but also that it is prepared to consider China’s concerns regarding the “undesirable consequences” of possible audits that do not specifically target practice. This is a small step, but a fundamental one on the path to dialogue and cooperation.

Another big topic that Yellen touched upon was “forced” treatment of American enterprises by China, lack of intellectual property protection, and concealment of its own markets despite international agreements.

But there are more fundamental issues at the global level: pollution, since China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter; debt relief for the poorest countries, since the Dragon is the world’s largest creditor nation, and many increasingly fear that the repayment obligations, which paralyze the Southern Hemisphere, could seriously harm a more vulnerable population. Yellen also spoke about the war in the heart of Europe. China has a close “unlimited” relationship with Moscow and, although it has not provided weapons, has supported Russia in other ways ever since troops were sent abroad.

“I said that it is important for Chinese businesses to avoid supplying Russia with materials or aid to evade sanctions,” she said, repeating how negotiations helped “take a step forward in our attempt to put the USA-China relationship on firm footing.”


Tommaso Baronio