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Secretary Blinken talked economy, security and AI during trip to China

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with China's leader Xi Jinping. The meeting wraps up a three-day visit to China as Washington and Beijing held talks on economic development, AI and more. Our colleague, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, was also in Beijing, and he spoke to Blinken about what he's gleaned from meetings with China's top leaders on global security.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: One thing you were focused on was trying to get China to stop giving aid to Russia's military as it invades Ukraine. And we can talk about China's attitude here because they've made a public statement. Their foreign ministry spokesman was asked today about ending aid to Russia, and he said, look. We trade with Russia, and you guys aid Ukraine. You're hypocrites. That sounded like a, no, we're not stopping - seemed to be what they were saying.

ANTONY BLINKEN: What China is doing now - it's not providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine as...

INSKEEP: Right.

BLINKEN: ...For example, North Korea and Iran are. But it is the No. 1 supplier of the critical components for Russia to rebuild its defense industrial base and other things that are going right into a massive production of munitions, of weaponry, of tanks, of armored vehicles, which in turn are going into Ukraine. This is not only a problem for us. It's not only a problem for Ukraine. It's a problem for virtually everyone in Europe because they see this as helping to perpetuate the Russian aggression in Ukraine. They also see it as creating a growing threat to Europe's security. So one of the things that I shared with our Chinese colleagues is that at the very same time that they're trying to develop better relations with Europe, they can't be doing that while at the same time helping to fuel what is the biggest threat to Europe's security since the end of the Cold War. Now, we've already taken steps ourselves. We're prepared to do more if China is not prepared to act to curb this activity.

INSKEEP: So Elbridge Colby, who's a former Republican defense official - you're nodding; you know him - was on the program this week and said he is concerned that these U.S. efforts could provoke a war that the United States is not ready for. What is the risk here?

BLINKEN: We're all about preventing wars, preventing conflict. And, again, one of the things that was so important in trying to reestablish regular contact with the China, regular engagement was the restoration of our military-to-military communications, something that came out of the president's meeting with President Xi last year. And we've seen...

INSKEEP: That prevents an accidental war.

BLINKEN: That's right.

INSKEEP: But what if China decides they must act 'cause they're running out of time?

BLINKEN: Well, I'm not going to get into their own decision space, but we've been very clear that when it comes to the South China Sea, when it comes to the Taiwan Strait, our purpose, our focus is on maintaining peace and stability, maintaining the status quo and not seeing any actions taken that could disrupt it.

INSKEEP: So while we're here in Beijing, we've been talking with a lot of people, and we met a university professor who said America's reputation has declined here, in part because of U.S. support for Israel and its war against Hamas. And it's been widely reported that China is playing up this conflict in the Global South, in many nations, to undermine the United States. How can you respond to that?

BLINKEN: Look. I can't, you know, focus on what they may be saying or doing inside of China. But what I can focus on is two things. One, of course, is what what we're doing in the Middle East, both to try to bring this conflict to an end as quickly as possible in a way that allows Israel to ensure that October 7 never happens again but also to do everything we can to protect the men, women and children who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas' making. And I've had, I think, six conversations with my Chinese counterparts since October 7. I actually believe that China could play a constructive role. It has influence with critical countries in the region, including, for example, Iran. So what I'm focused on is trying to encourage China to use that influence in a productive way.

SHAPIRO: You can hear Steve Inskeep's full interview with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kai McNamee
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
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