“In a relationship as complex and important as the one between the United States and China, there are many things to discuss,” Mr. Blinken said, as he and Mr. Wang posed in front of the flags. American and Chinese in a hotel in Bali, at the start of a morning of discussions followed by a working lunch. “We look forward to a productive and constructive conversation,” he added.

“China and the United States are two big countries, so it is necessary for the two countries to maintain normal exchanges,” Wang replied. “We must work together to ensure that this relationship continues to progress on the right path,” he added, calling for “mutual respect”.

The meeting between the two officials, the first since October, comes after a meeting of G20 foreign ministers the day before in Bali.

As the West strives to isolate Russia after the invasion of Ukraine and the global economy is plagued by growing uncertainties, China and the United States have taken precautionary measures to prevent that their innumerable differences do not degenerate into an uncontrollable conflict.

The United States will seek “to do everything possible to prevent any miscalculation that could inadvertently lead to conflict,” the top US diplomat for East Asia told reporters ahead of the meeting. East, Daniel Kristenbrink.

The meeting between Messrs. Wang and Blinken must also prepare a virtual meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in the coming weeks. Meetings between the two countries’ top defense, finance and national security officials have also taken place over the past two months.

For the Chinese state newspaper Global Times, known for its criticism of the United States, the growing interaction between Beijing and Washington is a sign of a “consensus of both parties to avoid an escalation”.

But tensions remain high, especially over Taiwan. The United States is concerned about the growing military pressure from Beijing on the democratic island which it considers an integral part of its territory and which it has sworn to take back one day.

– Hard line –

And Joe Biden has largely retained the substance of his predecessor Donald Trump’s hard line on China.

But in a recent speech, Mr Biden made it clear that the US was not seeking to start a new ‘cold war’, although he stood by his criticisms, including accusing Beijing of genocide against the people. Uighur, predominantly Muslim.

The Biden administration is expected to soon ease some of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, which could dampen inflation, which has become a major political handicap in the United States.

US officials also expressed cautious optimism about China’s stance on Ukraine, condemning its rhetorical support for Russia but also noting that Beijing backed its words with no material support for Russia. Moscow.

“What is striking is the restraint and discretion” with which China approached the Ukraine issue at the G20 on Friday, a Western official noted.

But US officials are acutely aware that any mini-honeymoon with China could be fleeting.

They expect Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in decades, to reshuffle his foreign policy team at the Communist Party congress later this year.

But Craig Singleton, who tracks China at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, expects Xi to again appoint technocrats who can work with Washington.

“The reason is simple: China’s economy is facing considerable headwinds and Chinese policymakers seem keen to acknowledge that China’s aggressive rhetoric has backfired,” he said.