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Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s last attempt to visit China was derailed by an alleged Chinese spy balloon.
Now — as the highest-ranking US official to visit China in five years — he’s ready to try again, departing tomorrow for a two-day trip aimed at stabilizing ties with the world’s second-largest economy and reducing the risk that miscommunication ignites conflict between the two superpowers.
Here are five things to watch during the visit:
1. China’s Reception
A meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is possible and would be significant. Blinken’s reception in Beijing will offer hints at how willing China is to engage at the highest levels. President Joe Biden, for instance, has been waiting for a call with Xi that’s been in the works since early May.
2. Low Expectations
Washington is already trying to lower expectations. “We need to be realistic,” Kurt Campbell, the White House’s top Asia official, said Wednesday. “We’re not going to Beijing with the intent of having some sort of breakthrough or transformation in the way that we deal with one another.”
3. Stabilizing Ties
Blinken’s overarching goal will be trying to steady a relationship that has huge consequences for the world economy and geopolitics. His planned trip in February would have benefited from the afterglow of the first in-person meeting as leaders between Biden and Xi in late 2022. Since then relations have soured over a series of spats and accusations.
4. Improving Communications
Things are so rocky that Blinken’s first step toward that stability will be just restoring lines of communication, particularly over military matters. The world’s two most powerful nations have very few direct ways of talking and lack a dedicated military-to-military line to deescalate incidents. Plus, China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu recently rejected a request to meet Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Taiwan is the most sensitive, and potentially explosive, area of US-China relations. Blinken is going to drive home the message that the Biden administration isn’t trying to upset the status quo. But he’s also going to have to condemn Chinese economic coercion and military pressure on Taiwan, which has increased in recent years. There won’t be any breakthrough on the fundamentals, but the tone will be telling. Read the full story from Iain Marlow.
- The House meets at 9 a.m. to vote to trim agency deference in court.
- Senators convene at 10 a.m. for votes on two Biden judge nominees.
- Biden gives a speech on his administration’s effort to combat hidden junk fees that raise the prices of items like concert tickets, hotel rooms, and internet service at 1:45 p.m. at the White House. Major ticketing websites including Ticketmaster and SeatGeek will announce transparency initiatives at the event.
- The president and first lady host a screening of the film “Flamin’ Hot” at 7:45 p.m.
Spending Bills Take Shape
House conservatives on Wednesday proposed raising the retirement age to collect Social Security, handing Democrats damaging political ammunition ahead of the 2024 election.
House appropriators advanced a spending proposal on Wednesday that seeks to thwart several Democratic priorities, including undoing loan relief for underserved farmers and preventing access to abortion drugs.
Agriculture, rural development, and FDA programs would get a 2.1% haircut from last year in a spending bill House appropriators advanced on a party-line vote Wednesday.
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved 34-27 its bill funding the FDA in fiscal year 2024, including an attempt to walk back the agency’s updated safety program for the abortion pill mifepristone that went into effect in January.
House Republicans want to cut federal funding for training new pediatricians to hospitals that perform gender-affirming care on minors, a move opponents warn could interfere with programs that train more than half the nation’s pediatricians.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is getting ready to move the first fiscal 2024 spending bills the week of June 19, senior members of the panel said.
Republicans’ Tax Proposal
New York and California Republicans are asking colleagues to push an amendment to the House GOP tax package that would provide taxpayer relief to the state-and-local tax deduction cap, saying the bill “needs to have a SALT provision.”
House Republicans are pushing forward a package of proposals to revive expired business tax breaks, providing a first look at GOP tax priorities this Congress.
Politics, Probes, and 2024
House Republicans defending former President Donald Trump and trying to discredit prosecutors are likely to turn to a subcommittee created at the start of this Congress to probe federal agencies.
- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whose probes of Trump led to his first impeachment, repulsed an effort by hard-line Republicans to fine him $16 million for alleged investigative abuses and slap him with a formal rebuke. Read more
Trump is still the frontrunner for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination, a survey conducted mostly after he announced he was facing federal indictment shows, with 53% of Republican and GOP-leaning voters supporting him.
What Else We’re Reading
The Energy Department will move quickly to deliver incentives to the private sector to develop clean energy technologies before the Biden administration’s first term ends, said David Crane, the agency’s first-ever under secretary for infrastructure, shortly after he was sworn into that position on Wednesday.
Intense wildfire smoke billowed over the Canadian border into the eastern US last week, spotlighting a harmful pollution problem with no regulatory solution.
Biden defended his record confronting climate change and earned the endorsement of major conservation groups as he sought to consolidate support for his 2024 reelection campaign at a gathering of climate activists Wednesday.
Civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups are calling on the Biden administration to end immigration enforcement agreements with local officials in light of recent racial profiling guidance from the Justice Department.
The Justice Department is concluding its investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department launched after George Floyd’s murder
The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced a tentative agreement on a new six-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports, a major step toward averting fresh supply-chain troubles for the economy.
North Korea appears to have test-fired a suspected ballistic missile toward waters off the east of the peninsula, Japan’s Defense Ministry says.
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