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Blinken will travel to China to bolster relations amid global turbulence

By Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood, CNN

(CNN) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China in the coming week as the Biden administration tries to ensure that the US-China relationship stays the course, even as the US expresses strong concerns about China’s support for Russia.

This is Blinken’s second trip to the country as top US diplomat. He visited last year in an effort to “stabilize” relations following a period of immense tension between Washington and Beijing after an American fighter plane shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that was detected over sensitive US military sites.

President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with Xi earlier this month, marking the first conversation between the leaders since their historic in-person summit in November.

“We are in a different place than we were a year ago when the bilateral relationship was at a historic low point,” a senior State Department official said.

Blinken will meet with senior Chinese officials in both Shanghai and Beijing during his April 24-26 visit, the official said.

The official said Blinken has “three primary objectives for his trip to China.”

“First, making progress on key issues; second, clearly and directly communicating concerns on bilateral regional and global issues; and third, responsibly managing competition,” the official said.

Blinken plans to “reiterate our deep concerns regarding the PRC’s support for Russia’s defense industrial base,” as well as its human rights abuses and “unfair economic and trade practices,” the official said.

Blinken will also discuss the situation in the Middle East. The US has repeatedly called on China both publicly and privately to press Iran to exercise restraint as tensions simmer between it and Israel.

“And of course, the secretary will discuss challenges in the Indo-Pacific, including PRC provocations in the South China Sea,” as well as North Korea’s “threatening rhetoric and reckless actions,” the official said. Blinken, he continued, “will also reaffirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

During Blinken’s trip to China last June, he met in Beijing with top officials, including President Xi Jinping. US officials framed the trip as an effort to resume normal channels of communication with China in an effort to avoid conflict between two of the globe’s great powers.

Blinken also met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in July for what was described by the US as “candid and constructive” conversation.

The call came amid heavy global turbulence — the ongoing wars in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, were topics of discussion.

The two also spoke about issues that have strained the Washington-Beijing relationship, including TaiwanChina’s recent provocations in the South China Sea and Beijing’s human rights abuses.

CNN’s Nectar Gan, MJ Lee and Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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