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Blinken, in Shanghai, begins expected contentious talks with Chinese officials


SHANGHAI — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened his first full day of meetings in China on Thursday by talking with local government officials in Shanghai.

Blinken discussed local and regional issues with Chen Jining, the Chinese Communist Party Secretary of Shanghai. He also planned to speak to students and business leaders before heading to Beijing by train for what are expected to be contentious talks with national officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Blinken arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday shortly before President Joe Biden signed a $95 billion foreign aid package that has several elements likely to anger the Chinese, including $8 billion to counter China’s growing aggressiveness toward Taiwan and in the South China Sea. It also seeks to force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the social media platform.

China has railed against U.S. assistance to Taiwan, the self-governing island that it regards as a renegade province, and immediately condemned the move as a dangerous provocation. It also strongly opposes efforts to force TikTok’s sale.

Still, the fact that Blinken made the trip — shortly after a conversation between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a similar visit to China by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and a call between the U.S. and Chinese defense chiefs — is a sign the two sides are at least willing to discuss their differences.

“I think it’s important to underscore the value — in fact, the necessity — of direct engagement, of speaking to each other, laying out our differences, which are real, seeking to work through them,” Blinken told Chen.

“We have an obligation for our people, indeed an obligation to the world, to manage the relationship between our two countries responsibly,” he said. “That is the obligation we have, and one that we take very seriously.”

Chen agreed with that sentiment and said the recent Biden-Xi call had helped the “stable and healthy development of our two countries’ relationship.”

“Whether we choose cooperation or confrontation affects the well-being of both peoples, both countries, and the future of humanity” he said.

Chen added that he hoped Blinken was able to get a “deep impression and understanding” of Shanghai.

Shortly after arriving, Blinken attended a Chinese basketball playoff game between the local Shanghai Sharks and the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, with the home team losing in the last seconds in 121-120 nailbiter.

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