BEIJING – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appealed to China on Saturday for cooperation on climate change and other global challenges and not to let disagreements about trade and other irritants derail relations.
In a meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, Yellen defended U.S. restrictions on technology exports that rankle Beijing. She said the two governments shouldn’t let such disagreements disrupt thriving economic and financial relations.
″We also face important global challenges, such as debt distress in emerging markets and developing countries and climate change,” Yellen said. “We have a duty to both our own economies and to other countries to cooperate.”
Yellen is one of a series of U.S. officials who are due to visit Beijing as part of efforts to revive relations that are at their lowest level in decades due to disputes over technology, security, and Taiwan among other issues.
Yellen has received a warm welcome from leaders including Premier Li Qiang, the No. 2 figure in the ruling Communist Party, though they gave no sign they will change policies that irk Washington and other governments.
Treasury officials said the goal of the trip was to encourage communication and no agreements on big disputes were expected. They said Yellen wasn't scheduled to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Beijing broke off climate discussions with Washington last August in retaliation for a visit by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the House of Representatives to Taiwan, the self-ruled island democracy claimed by China as part of its territory.
President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, is due to become the next senior U.S. official to visit China next week.
China and the United States are the world’s top emitters of climate-changing carbon.
He, who is Xi's top economic adviser and the chief Chinese envoy to the United States on trade and financial issues, said the two governments should return to an agreement reached last November by Biden and Xi to improve relations.
″The two countries should act with a sense of responsibility for history, for the people and for the world,” the vice premier said.
He added that the United States should ”adopt a rational and pragmatic attitude and work with China to stay committed to the common understandings” by Xi and Biden.
China, which has lent billions of dollars to governments in Asia and Africa under Xi's Belt and Road Initiative to build ports and other infrastructure, signed on an agreement last month to reduce the debts of Zambia in southern Africa. Treasury officials earlier pointed to that as an area where cooperation produced results.
Also Saturday, Yellen met with the incoming governor of China’s central bank, Pan Gongsheng, and people who work in China’s climate-related finance industry.
Meeting with He, Yellen repeated her appeal for “healthy economic cooperation,” a reference to complaints that Beijing violates its free-trade commitments by subsidizing and shielding its companies from competition.
Yellen defended U.S. curbs on technology exports, repeating a theme she touched on in a meeting Friday with Li, the premier.
U.S. limits on Chinese access to processor chips and other technology threaten to delay or derail the ruling party's efforts to develop telecoms, artificial intelligence and other fields. Xi accused Washington in March of trying to hamper China’s development.
Beijing has been slow to retaliate, possibly to avoid disrupting its own industries. But this week, the government announced unspecified controls on exports of gallium and germanium, metals used in making semiconductors and solar panels.
“The United States will take targeted actions to protect our national security,” Yellen said. “While we may disagree on these actions, we should not allow that disagreement to lead to misunderstandings, particularly those stemming from a lack of communication, which can unnecessarily worsen our bilateral economic and financial relationship.”