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US and Chinese officials discuss climate, economy and relations

ZURICH (AP) — US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with his Chinese counterpart on Wednesday and pledged to make efforts to manage differences and “prevent competition from becoming a close conflict” as the two nations attempt to unfreeze relations.

Yellen’s first face-to-face meeting with Vice Premier Liu He in Zurich is the highest contact between the two countries since their presidents agreed last November at their first face-to-face meeting to seek potential areas of cooperation.

Liu said he was ready to work together to seek common ground between China and the United States. “No matter how circumstances change, we must always maintain dialogue and exchanges,” he said.

A US Treasury reading of their meeting says the two men agreed the US and China would cooperate more on climate change finance issues and work to support “developing countries in their energy transitions.” own”. The reading also indicates that Yellen plans to visit China and will host her counterparts in the United States in the near future.

The meeting comes as the US and Chinese economies grapple with different but interrelated challenges in trade, technology and more.

Yellen, in his opening address to reporters, told Liu: “Although we have points of disagreement, and we will convey them directly, we must not allow misunderstandings, especially those resulting from a lack of communication, to unnecessarily worsen our bilateral economic and bilateral financial relationship.”

Liu said China and the United States need to communicate and coordinate seriously, Chinese broadcaster Phoenix TV reported. He said both sides needed to see the big picture, try to manage differences properly and work together to maintain stability in relations, the broadcaster said in an online report.

Yellen said the two countries “have a responsibility to manage our differences and prevent competition from getting even close to conflict.”

Both economies have their challenges.

China’s economy reopens after a resurgence of COVID-19 kills tens of thousands of people and shut down countless businesses. The United States is slowly recovering from high inflation for 40 years and is on track to reach its statutory debt ceiling, setting up an expected political showdown between congressional Democrats and Republicans. The issue of debt is of great interest to Asia, with China being the second largest holder of US debt.

There is also the Russian invasion of Ukrainethat is hampering global economic growth – and prompted the United States and its allies to agree on an oil price cap for Russia in retaliation, putting China in a difficult situation as a friend and economic ally of Russia.

And high global interest rates have increased pressure on indebted countries that owe large sums to China.

“One bad policy move or a reversal of the positive data and we could see the global economy heading into a recession in 2023,” said Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center. “Both countries have a common interest in avoiding this scenario.”

The World Bank announced last week that the global economy would be getting “dangerously close” recession this year, driven by weaker growth in all major economies around the world, including the United States and China. Low-income countries are set to suffer from any superpower economic slowdown, the report said.

“High on the list is debt restructuring,” Lipsky said of Wednesday’s talks. Several low-income countries are at risk of default in 2023, and many of them owe large sums to China.

“Executives have been trying for two years to get a deal and avoid a wave of defaults, but there has been little success and one of the reasons is China’s hesitation. I expect what Yellen presses Liu He about in the meeting,” Lipsky said.

Liu laid out an optimistic view of the world’s second-largest economy in a speech Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“If we work hard enough, we are confident that in 2023 Chinese growth will most likely return to its normal trend. China’s economy will see significant improvement,” he said.

After her stopover in Switzerland, Yellen will travel to Zambia, Senegal and South Africa this week in what will be the first of a series of visits by Biden administration officials to sub-Saharan Africa over the year.

Zambia is renegotiating its nearly $6 billion debt with China, its biggest creditor. In a closed-door meeting at the African Leaders’ Summit in Washington in December, Yellen and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema discussed “the need to address debt sustainability and the imperative to conclude a debt for Zambia,” according to Yellen.

The Zurich talks follow the November meeting between President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. The two world leaders agreed to empower key senior officials to work on potential areas of cooperation, including tackling climate change and maintaining global financial, health and food stability. Beijing had severed those contacts with the United States in protest at then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August.

“We will compete vigorously. But I’m not looking for conflict,” Biden said at the time.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China in early February.

Among the economic sticking points, the Biden administration has blocked the sale of advanced computer chips to China and is considering banning investment in some Chinese tech companies, which could jeopardize a key economic goal Xi has set for his country. . The Democratic president’s statements that the United States would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion also heightened tensions.

And while the US Congress is divided on many issues, House members agreed last week to take a closer look at Chinese investments.

Incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, identified the Chinese Communist Party as one of two “long-term challenges” for the House, along with the national debt.

“There is a bipartisan consensus that the era of reliance on communist China is over,” McCarthy said from the House floor last week when the House voted 365 to 65 – with 146 Democrats joining the Republicans – to establish the House Select Committee on China.

Last year, the US Department of Commerce added dozens of Chinese tech companies, including makers of aircraft equipment, chemicals, and computer chips, to an export control blacklist, citing concerns about national security, U.S. interests, and human rights. The move prompted the Chinese to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

Yellen criticized China’s trade practices and its relationship with Russia, as the two countries have deepened their economic ties since the start of the war in Ukraine last February. During a July call with Liu, Yellen spoke “candily” about the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the global economy and “unfair and non-market” economic practices, according to a US summary of the call.

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