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US, China need ‘tough’ conversations, Yellen tells Chinese Premier Li

US, China need ‘tough’ conversations, Yellen tells Chinese Premier Li

By David Lawder

BEIJING (Tiafx) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday that the ability to have difficult conversations has put the two economic superpowers on “a more stable footing” over the past year.

As they began a meeting in Beijing, Li responded that the two countries needed to respect each other and should be partners, not adversaries, adding that “constructive progress” had been made during Yellen’s trip.

Yellen said Washington and Beijing had a “duty” to responsibly manage the complex relationship, as she brought her case for reining in China’s excess factory capacity to the Chinese leadership.

“While we have more to do, I believe that, over the past year, we have put our bilateral relationship on more stable footing,” Yellen said. “This has not meant ignoring our differences or avoiding tough conversations. It has meant understanding that we can only make progress if we directly and openly communicate with one another.”

Yellen has made the threat of China’s excess production of electric vehicles (EVs), solar panels and other clean energy products to producers in the U.S. and other countries a focus of her second visit to China in nine months.

She visited Beijing in July 2023 to try to normalise bilateral economic relations after a period of heightened tension caused by differences over issues ranging from Taiwan to COVID-19’s origins and Trade disputes.

On Saturday in the southern export hub of Guangzhou, Yellen and her main economic counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, agreed to launch a dialogue focussed on “balanced growth”. Yellen said she intends to use the forum to advocate for a level playing field with China to protect U.S. workers and businesses.

“As the world’s two largest economies, we have a duty to our own countries and to the world to responsibly manage our complex relationship and to cooperate and show leadership on addressing pressing global challenges,” Yellen told Li.

Throughout her visit, Chinese state media have pushed back against Yellen’s message on excess capacity.

State news agency Xinhua said on Saturday that talking up “Chinese overcapacity” in the clean energy sector created a pretext for protectionist policies to shield American companies.

© Reuters. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press briefing at the Guangdong Zhudao Guest House, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, April 6, 2024. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Suppressing China’s EV-related industries will not help the U.S. grow its own, Xinhua said, expressing hope that more Headway could be made during Yellen’s visit to break down barriers hindering mutually beneficial cooperation.

Far from curbing investment in manufacturing, China has doubled down on President Xi Jinping’s new mantra of unleashing “new productive forces,” by investing in cutting-edge technology including EVs, commercial spaceflight and life sciences – areas where many U.S. firms hold advantages.

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