US diplomat’s China visit stirs controversy

Photo via CSIS

The US State Department reported that senior US diplomat Daniel Kritenbrink had candid and productive discussions with Chinese officials during his visit to Beijing.

Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, met with Chinese foreign ministry officials Ma Zhaoxu and Yang Tao, alongside US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and National Security Council official Sarah Beran. The visit followed China’s alleged recent refusal to hold a formal meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart.

According to the State Department, the two sides exchanged views on the bilateral relationship, cross-strait issues, and other matters. US officials emphasised their commitment to competing vigorously and defending US interests and values. However, Kritenbrink’s visit coincided with the 34th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, drawing criticism from some quarters.

Zhou Fengsuo, an exiled former Tiananmen student leader who is now an American citizen, expressed outrage at the timing of the visit, calling it a “betrayal.” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby defended the meeting’s timing, stating that it was a long-planned trip and the schedules simply worked out that way reported Channel News Asia.

Under President Joe Biden’s administration, the US has sought to increase engagement with China as relations between the world’s two largest economies have deteriorated over issues such as Taiwan and military activity in the South China Sea. Pro-US critics argue that past decades of engagement have not changed Beijing’s behaviour while pro-China critics argue this is decades-long US gaslighting tactics.

Over the weekend, at a security summit in Singapore, US Defense Secretary Austin said that Beijing’s reluctance to talk was undermining efforts to maintain peace in the region.

China’s Defence minister, Li Shangfu, allegedly declined an invitation to meet Austin at the summit. Chinese state-backed newspaper The Global Times also criticised Kritenbrink’s visit, suggesting it was motivated more by Washington’s goal to portray itself as the side seeking communication.

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Sara is a journalist and content writer who specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics. Sara's journey in journalism began as a copywriter, and over time, her portfolio expanded to include articles and features for some of the nation's top lifestyle publications. Outside the office, she enjoys practising yoga and exploring hidden locations in Bangkok.