U.S. Treasury chief Janet Yellen pushes China over

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Beijing — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in Beijing for meetings with top Chinese officials and American companies that do business in the country, said the U.S. welcomes healthy economic competition with China, but only if it’s fair. Yellen also said she was concerned about new export controls announced by China on two critical minerals used in technologies like semiconductors.

“We are still evaluating the impact of these actions,” she said, “but they remind us of the importance of diversified supply chains.”

Her message to company representatives, including from corporate giants such as Boeing and Bank of America that have significant operations in China, was that the U.S. government understands it’s not been an easy time.

“I’ve been particularly troubled by punitive actions that have been taken against U.S. firms,” the Treasury chief said, referring to raids carried out in the spring by police on three companies that the Chinese government — without offering any evidence — said were suspected of spying.


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But in spite of some friction and chilly Beijing-Washington relations overall, U.S.-China trade is booming. It reached an all-time high in 2022, with everything from iPhones to solar panels and soybeans creating an eye-watering $700 billion in trade.

At that level, the economic ties are crucial to both countries, and as Yellen told the second-most powerful man in China on Friday afternoon, they need protecting. 

CHINA-US-DIPLOMACY
Chinese Premier Li Qiang shakes hands with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 7, 2023.

MARK SCHIEFELBEIN/POOL/AFP/Getty


She defended “targeted actions” taken by the U.S., a reference to limits on the export of some advanced processor chips and other high-tech goods to China, saying they were necessary for national security reasons.

“You may disagree,” she told Chinese Premier Li Qiang. “But we should not allow any disagreement to lead to misunderstandings that needlessly worsen our bilateral economic and financial relationships.”


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China’s Finance Ministry said in a statement Friday that it hoped the U.S. would take “concrete actions” to improve the two countries’ economic and trade ties going forward, stressing that there would be “no winners” in a trade war or from the two massive economies “decoupling.”

Li, who had met Yellen previously, seemed to be in a receptive mood, telling Yellen in welcoming remarks that a rainbow had appeared as her plane landed from the U.S., and “there is more to China-U.S. relations than just wind and rain. We will surely see more rainbows.”

The goal of Yellen’s trip is to pave the way for more bilateral talks, but she has a tough message to deliver, too: That the U.S. is not prepared to soften its stance on some of the things the Chinese are most angry about, including the controls on the sale of sophisticated U.S. technology to China.  



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