Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability – United States Department of State

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good evening, everyone. Ten months ago, I traveled to the People’s Republic of China at a time of profound tension between our countries with the aim of stabilizing the relationship, reopening and strengthening our high-level channels of communication. Over a series of candid and constructive conversations I had then with President Xi and other senior officials, I made clear our policies and intentions, and identified issues of shared interest where we might work together. Those discussions, which were followed by additional senior-level visits and meetings between our governments, helped lay the foundation for a productive summit between President Biden and President Xi in San Francisco at the end of last year. Our leaders agreed on concrete steps to cooperate on issues that matter to our people and matter to the world and reduce the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.

In the months since then, we focused intensively on advancing those commitments. I returned to China this week to take stock of where we’ve made progress and where more needs to be done so that we can deliver tangible results for the American people. That’s been the focus of my meetings with President Xi, with Director and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with the Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong, and the Shanhai Party Secretary Chen Jining.

Since the Woodside summit, we have advanced our cooperation on fentanyl and other synthetic drugs – the number-one killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. Specifically, the PRC has issued a public notice to industry, it’s taken enforcement action against some companies that produce precursors – those are the chemical ingredients that make up synthetic drugs. And the U.S. and China have set up a joint Counternarcotics Working Group to collaborate on policy making and on law enforcement, and to share technical expertise. Thanks in large part to the working group’s efforts, China is providing information to international law enforcement that can be used to track and intercept illicit drugs and their precursors, and our two governments recently agreed to share best practices on closing loopholes in our financial systems that the drug traffickers and other criminal enterprises use to launder money.

So this is important progress, but more needs to be done. In my discussions, I underscored the importance of the PRC taking additional action, in particular by prosecuting those who are selling chemicals and equipment used to make fentanyl, meeting its international commitments to regulate all of the precursors that are controlled by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and disrupting illicit financing networks.

Since the Woodside meeting between the presidents, we’ve also resumed direct military-to-military communications at multiple levels – something that I made a top priority for my meetings in Beijing last year. U.S. and PRC defense officials met for two days at the Pentagon in January. Earlier this month, our two countries’ air and naval forces held talks aimed at ensuring safer interactions. Last week, Secretary of Defense Austin had his first video call with Minister of Defense Dong Jun. Direct, open, clear lines of communication like these are critical to avoiding miscalculations.

I’m pleased to announce that earlier today, we agreed to hold the first U.S.-PRC talks on artificial intelligence to be held in the coming weeks. We’ll share our respective views on the risks and safety concerns around advanced AI and how best to manage them. We also spoke about ways that we can continue to grow people-to-people ties between our countries, particularly educational exchanges. Our governments have a vested interest in creating open and welcoming conditions for these programs which have long enriched both of our countries.

As you know, I had a chance yesterday to meet with a few dozen American and Chinese students who are learning side by side at the NYU Shanghai program as well as in other joint U.S.-PRC university programs in China. I heard how the experiences deepened their knowledge inside and outside the classroom and forged ties that will last well beyond their shared educational experience. While there are more than 290,000 Chinese students in the United States, there are fewer than 900 Americans studying here in China, and that’s a significant drop from a decade ago when we had about 15,000 Americans studying here. President Xi said that he wants to significantly increase the number of Americans studying here in the coming years, and that’s something that we support.

We have an interest in this, because if our future leaders – whether it’s in government, whether it’s in business, civil society, climate, tech, and other fields – if they’re going to be able to collaborate, if they want to be able to solve big problems, if they’re going to be able to work through our differences, they’ll need to know and understand each other, language, culture, history. What I told my PRC counterparts on this visit is if they want to attract more Americans here to China, particularly students, the best way to do that is to create the conditions that allow learning to flourish anywhere – a free and open discussion of ideas, access to a wide range of information, ease of travel, confidence in the safety, security, and privacy of the participants.

Now, even as we seek to deepen cooperation where our interests align, the United States is very clear-eyed about the challenges posed by the PRC and about our competing visions for the future. America will always defend our core interests and values. In my discussions today, I reiterated our serious concern about the PRC providing components that are powering Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. China is the top supplier of machine tools, microelectronics, nitrocellulose – which is critical to making munitions and rocket propellants, and other dual-use items that Moscow is using to ramp up its defense industrial base, a defense industrial base that is churning out rockets, drones, tanks, and other weapons that President Putin is using to invade a sovereign country, to demolish its power grid and other civilian infrastructure, to kill innocent children, women, and men. Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China’s support.

In my meetings with NATO Allies earlier this month and with our G7 partners just last week, I heard that same message: fueling Russia’s defense industrial base not only threatens Ukrainian security; it threatens European security. Beijing cannot achieve better relations with Europe while supporting the greatest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War. As we’ve told China for some time, ensuring transatlantic security is a core U.S. interest. In our discussions today, I made clear that if China does not address this problem, we will.

I also expressed our concern about the PRC’s unfair trade practices and the potential consequences of industrial overcapacity to global and U.S. markets, especially in a number of key industries that will drive the 21st century economy, like solar panels, electric vehicles, and the batteries that power them. China alone is producing more than 100 percent of global demand for these products, flooding markets, undermining competition, putting at risk livelihoods and businesses around the world.

Now, this is a movie that we’ve seen before, and we know how it ends – with American businesses shuttered and American jobs lost. President Biden will not let this happen on his watch. We’ll do what’s necessary to ensure that American workers can compete on a level playing field. America’s actions are not aimed at holding back China’s development, nor are we decoupling our economies. As Secretary Yellen said during her recent visit, that would be disastrous for the global economy, including for the United States. We want China’s economy to grow. So do the American businesses and investors here, several of whom I had an opportunity to speak to in Shanghai. But the way China grows matters. As I told my counterpart, that means fostering a healthy economic relationship where American workers and firms are treated equally and fairly.

In today’s meetings I discussed the PRC’s dangerous actions in the South China Sea, including against routine Philippine maintenance operations and maritime operations near the Second Thomas Shoal. Freedom of navigation and commerce in these waterways is not only critical to the Philippines, but to the U.S. and to every other nation in the Indo-Pacific and indeed around the world. That’s why so many nations have expressed concern about the PRC’s maritime maneuvers.

I made clear that while the U.S. will continue to work to de-escalate tensions, our defense commitments to the Philippines remain ironclad. I reaffirmed the U.S.’s “one China” policy and stressed the critical importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

I raised the cases of American citizens who are wrongfully detained and those who are subject to exit bans. President Biden and I will not rest until they’re back with their families where they belong. I also raised concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions as well as transnational repression, ongoing human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, and a number of individual human rights cases.

We spoke about press freedom and access. I appreciate that the PRC granted short-term visas to a number of the foreign journalists who are here so that they could cover this visit. In my meetings, I encouraged my PRC counterparts to fulfil the commitment that they made in 2021 to provide equal access to our two countries’ media organizations. The United States will continue to insist on reciprocity on this issue, just as we do for our businesses, cross-cultural exchanges, and many other areas.

We also discussed a range of regional and global crises where China can play a constructive role. I encouraged China to use its influence to discourage Iran and its proxies from expanding the conflict in the Middle East, and to press Pyongyang to end its dangerous behavior and engage in dialogue. Going forward, we’ll continue our high-level discussions on these and other issues.

All of the policies that the United States has pursued over the past three years, at home and around the world, are driven by a singular objective – delivering for the American people, meeting the challenges that they face, creating the opportunities that they seek, building a future where they and their children and their children’s children are secure, free, prosperous, and healthy.

That’s what has motivated the historic investments that we’ve made in our competitiveness back home and in reinvigorating our alliances and our partnerships around the world. And that same core objective animated my meetings in China over the past few days and will continue to guide us as we manage a relationship that is so consequential for our two nations and for the entire world.

With that, happy to take some questions.

MR MILLER: The first question goes to Iain Marlow with Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary. Good evening. Wang Yi said that the U.S. was taking endless measures to suppress China’s economy and warned that growing negative factors could derail the effort by Presidents Biden and Xi to stabilize U.S.-China ties. Do you think the Biden administration’s pledge to increase tariff, the threat of new sanctions, and actions like the probe into Chinese shipbuilding could push the U.S. and China back into a period of dangerous volatility?

Separately, did you make any headway in terms of actually getting China to agree to reduce economic support for Russia’s defense industry? And if not, is the U.S. ready to move forward with sanctions?

And separately, given North Korea is also sending massive shipments of munitions to Russia, did you bring that up with your Chinese counterpart, and did you get any Chinese cooperation there?

And finally, just on TikTok, did that come up in conversations today, and how do you expect China to respond? Thanks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Not sure I got all of it, but I’ll try, Iain. Thank you.

On the last question, no, TikTok did not come up, so I can answer that one very quickly.

Look, on the economic relationship, let’s put this in perspective. We remain – the United States remains – the largest market for Chinese products of any country around the world, and our own trade relationship remains very significant. In fact, China is our third-largest trading partner after out near neighbors Canada and Mexico, and as I heard from American businesses and American investors in Shanghai, there remains a very strong interest in working in this market provided that we have a level playing field and a fair shot. When we do, we do very well.

But when we’re looking at the question of tariffs, 301 measures, et cetera, what we’re focused on is practices engaged in by China that are unfair and undermine our businesses and our workers. And this question of overcapacity is the one that is front and center. China is responsible for one-third of global production but one-tenth of global demand, so there is a clear mismatch. And when you have products that are produced here and produced in a way that’s heavily subsidized, heavily supported in other ways, and that allows those products then to be sold at low prices – and sometimes below-market prices in other countries – pushing businesses from those countries out of business and having potentially devastating effects on communities, on workers, on businesses, that’s something that we have to, will, and are standing against.

But the other important thing is it’s not just us. This is a concern that I’ve heard around the world and notably from European partners, and this came up in conversations just a week ago when we had a meeting of the G7. So this is not about containing China; it’s not about cutting off trade or investment. Again, as you heard Secretary Yellen say, this is important to us and to many other countries around the world. But we want to ensure that it proceeds fairly and in a way that doesn’t have these unfair effects on our industries, on our workers, and on our companies. And again, that’s something that’s shared across the world.

When it comes to China’s support for Russia’s defense industrial base, all I can tell you is I was extremely clear about our concerns in some detail, but we’ll have to see what actions follow from that. Now, I think China has demonstrated in the past when it comes to Russia and Ukraine that it can take positive action. You’ll recall that well over a year ago we had concerns that Russia was considering the possible use of a nuclear weapon, and I believe that China’s voice was important in, at least at that time, moving Russia away from that possible course of action. But now it is absolutely critical that the support that it’s providing – not in terms of weapons but components for the defense industrial base – again, things like machine tools, microelectronics, where it is overwhelmingly the number-one supplier to Russia. That’s having a material effect in Ukraine and against Ukraine, but it’s also having a material effect in creating a growing that Russia poses to countries in Europe and something that has captured their attention in a very intense way.

And as I said, TikTok did not come up. Thanks.

MR MILLER: For the next question, Wang Lu with The Paper.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary. Wang Lu from The Paper. With the intensive interaction between China and U.S. at various level since the Woodside summit last November, as well as you intensive interactions with Chinese officials and people during your visit, with the U.S. election agenda gradually dominating American politics, there is a need for various party to demonstrate their strong stance on China to secure votes, leading to negative sentiments and action regarding China. So in this context, how can we safeguard and effectively implement the achievements made by both sides during this period, also minimizing the influence of campaign-style rhetoric and fostering more goodwill to stabilize Sino-U.S. relations? Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. In my job, I don’t do politics. I focus on policies, and that’s what I’ve been doing here at President Biden’s instruction, trying to carry forward the agenda and the agreements that were reached between President Biden and President Xi in California at the end of last year. And that’s where my focus is and that’s where it will remain in the months ahead. And as I said a few moments ago, we’ve seen important progress on that agenda in the time since the meeting between the two presidents, including on counternarcotics, including on military-to-military ties, communications, including now on the dialogue that we’ve just announced on artificial intelligence, as well as on people-to-people exchanges and connections between our countries.

Also vitally important, coming out of California meetings, as President Biden made clear, that we continue to communicate clearly about our differences, at the very least to minimize the chance of miscalculation, misunderstandings. And that’s also exactly what I did on this visit and will continue to do. And that’s simply what’s required, which is to continue to advance our interests and our values, which has nothing to do with election cycles and everything to do with what’s important to the American people.

MR MILLER: Simon Lewis with Reuters.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that you think that China can play a more constructive role – can play a constructive role in global crises, particularly talking about the Middle East. You had a conversation with Minister Wang Yi earlier this month around the time of the – when Iran-Israel tensions were really ramping up. I wonder if you have an assessment of the role that China has played and whether it’s sufficient in the actions that the Chinese Government has taken so far.

And there are some reports that the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas had a meeting here in Beijing while you were here. I wonder if that’s an area where you would welcome some Chinese involvement.

And while we we’re on the Middle East, I think we can’t ignore some of the images that have been coming out from back in the U.S. from university campuses. It’s quite striking to see students – some of the violence in these protests, but students all across your country are coming out and expressing the outrage at what’s happening in Gaza. Are you taking on board those protests? What do you say to young people, young Americans, who see this as a moment when they need to speak out against the government?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. So first, on the Middle East, I think I’ve talked to the Foreign Minister Wang Yi at least half a dozen times on this since October 7th, including of course today but also in previous meetings we had, phone conversations, et cetera. And yes, I think this is an area where China can use the relationships it has, the influence it has, to try, for example, to prevent the conflict from escalating, from spreading. And we had a good conversation when tensions were particularly acute follow – preceding and then immediately following Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel 10 days or so ago. And I think the relationships, again, that China has can be positive in trying to calm tensions, prevent escalation, avoid the spread of the conflict. And we agreed that we remain in regular touch on this, and that’s certainly my intention.

I’m not aware of the meeting you referred to – I think you said between Fatah and Hamas – so nothing to say on that.

In terms of the protests back home, look, again, I’m not – it’s not my practice to comment on domestic matters. But look, people have strong, passionate feelings about what’s happening in Gaza and the Middle East that I very much understand. And when we see the horrific human suffering and the death of children, women, and men who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’s making, it’s gut-wrenching, as I’ve said before. And we want to do everything we can to bring it to an end. And in our own country, it’s a hallmark of our democracy that our citizens make known their views, their concerns, their anger at any given time. And I think that reflects the strength of the country, the strength of democracy.

Now, as I’ve also said before, this could be over tomorrow, it could have been over yesterday, it could have been over months ago, if Hamas had put down its weapons, stopped hiding behind civilians, released the hostages, and surrendered. But of course, it has chosen not to do that, and it is also notable that there is silence about Hamas. It’s as if it wasn’t even part of the story. But as I’ve also said repeatedly, the way Israel goes about ensuring that October 7th never happens again matters profoundly, and we’re working every day to try to minimize damage that’s done to innocent people and to make sure that they have the assistance and support that they need.

MR MILLER: And for the final question, Johannes Neudecker with DPA.

QUESTION: Thank you. My question was basically just asked, but I’m —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good, thank you.

QUESTION: I’m just – I’m just going to ask another one. You said that you also require countries in Europe to, yeah, kind of join the plans to prevent China from supplying military or dual-use goods to Russia. What do you expect from these countries, and how should they act now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s not what we expect of them. It’s their profound concerns about the actions that Chinese enterprises are taking to support Russia’s defense industrial base, because this goes not only to the immediate threat posed by Russia and its aggression against Ukraine. It goes to a medium- and long-term threat that many Europeans feel viscerally that Russia potentially poses to them.

And so what I heard in my conversations last week at the G7 meetings, before that at NATO, was a shared concern about this. I had detailed conversations with a number of European leaders about their concerns, including President Macron of France, German counterparts, British, many others – Italian. And I think all of us are looking to China to take steps to curb this action, and we’re also, as I said, looking at the actions that we’re fully prepared to take if we don’t see a change. We have – in the case of the United States, we’ve already imposed sanctions on more than a hundred Chinese entities, export controls, et cetera. And we’re fully prepared to act, take additional measures, and I made that very clear in my meetings today.

MR MILLER: Thank you all.