Analysis: US treasury secretary to meet Beijing officials amid export spat

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is set to hold high-level talks in Beijing amid growing tensions over the semiconductor trade.

The meetings will reportedly touch on global issues, including climate change and debt in emerging countries.

But semiconductors are expected to loom large over the talks as the United States has been limiting exports of semiconductors, which could be used for military purposes, to China.

The Chinese government on Monday retaliated, announcing that it would limit its own exports of gallium and germanium, which are key elements in building semiconductors.

Analysis: US-China relations

NHK World's International Politics Commentator Hanazawa Yuichiro has been covering US-China relations for decades. He shared his thoughts on the situation.

The US has been stepping up pressure on Beijing as part of its stance of prioritizing security over economics when dealing with China. It has restricted exports of advanced semiconductors.

At Washington's request, Japan and the Netherlands are also restricting exports of products that can lead to the production of advanced semiconductors.

However, trade between the US and China hit a record high last year. While taking a tough position on semiconductors and supply-chain issues, the US does not want the overall economic relationship to deteriorate.

It's clear that Yellen is trying to communicate with her Chinese counterpart to avoid any extreme escalation of the conflict.

On China's end, the economy remains sluggish. The youth unemployment rate is over 20% and the real-estate industry, which accounts for a quarter of GDP, continues to stagnate. On top of that, foreign companies have been pulling out of China due to supply-chain concerns and other factors.

Against this backdrop, Yellen says the US is considering an executive order that would restrict its investments in China's high-tech industry.

It's thought China had asked Yellen to visit before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This indicates that China is in a difficult situation and is trying to get a so-called soft response from the US on the economic front.

The US side has a number of issues it wants to bring up. China's revised anti-espionage law and human-rights issues are of great concern. Yellen is also likely to demand that China cease coercive actions against other countries, such as using economic threats.

There's also an issue involving developing countries that have received Chinese loans and find themselves in financial difficulties. Yellen is expected to ask for more debt relief.

Beijing, on the other hand, will seek to have the US ease its policy of targeting China.

There is a huge gap between the two countries on multiple issues.

The Biden administration's strategy is to prevent any extreme deterioration in relations by continuing dialogue with Beijing. But, it's believed that significant progress will be difficult.

Nevertheless, it will be important to see whether both sides will show flexibility on specific issues, as this will give an indication of the future of US-China relations, as well as the global economy.

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