Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Beijing early Sunday morning to begin the highest-level trip by a U.S. official to China in nearly five years.
Blinken and his aides opened the two-day diplomatic foray by meeting Foreign Minister Qin Gang at an ornately decorated state villa in Beijing’s ancient Diaoyutai gardens, where the Chinese hosts will later host a banquet dinner, AP reports.
The meeting comes nearly five months after an earlier Blinken visit was postponed, following the passage of a suspected Chinese spy balloon through U.S. airspace.
That flight sparked a major diplomatic stand off between the world’s two largest economies which Blinken now hopes he can take steps to mend while quelling criticism back home the Biden administration’s response to the incursion was too little, too late.
WATCH:”I Think They’re Compromised” — Rep. Tim Burchett on Biden Admin’s China Balloon DebacleMatt Perdie / Breitbart News
Qin greeted Blinken on Sunday at the Diaoyutai State Guest House, a lavish estate that typically hosts visiting dignitaries.
The two shook hands as they stood before their respective flags before joining their delegations at long tables to begin their meetings.
The greeting was business-like, underscoring the chilly relations that have developed between the two superpowers in recent years, the BBC reports.
It is not clear whether he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Blinken is the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.
“If we want to make sure, as we do, that the competition that we have with China doesn’t veer into conflict, the place you start is with communicating,” Blinken told reporters on Friday before his departure for the Communist state.
Later he said he hoped to meet President Xi in the next few months.
A meeting between Biden and Xi Jinping in Bali last November briefly eased fears of a new Cold War, but since the balloon incident high-level communication between the two leaders has been rare.