U.S., China to hold first AI talks within 'weeks' amid ongoing TikTok stalemate

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he prepares to depart Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport en route to Beijing, on April 25, 2024. 

Mark Schiefelbein | Afp | Getty Images

The U.S. and China will hold their first high-level talks on artificial intelligence within the “coming weeks,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday, providing no update on the future of Chinese social media giant TikTok.

During wide-ranging talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, Blinken said the two sides had agreed to the first U.S.-China intergovernmental dialogue on AI to discuss the risks and safety concerns surrounding the emerging technology.

“Earlier today we agreed to hold the first US PRC talks on artificial intelligence to be held in the coming weeks, to share our respective views on risks and safety concerns around advanced AI and how best to manage them,” Blinken said during a press conference.

The U.S. imposed restrictions on Beijing’s ability to access high-end tech and is moving closer to banning the social media app TikTok unless its Chinese parent ByteDance sells it.

Blinken at the press conference said TikTok “did not come up” in the talks.

China’s foreign ministry confirmed the AI talks will take place in a statement, which detailed a wider five-point agreement between Washington and Beijing.

Also included in the consensus were further efforts to “stabilize and develop” U.S.-China relations, expand cultural exchanges, and continue consultations on “international and regional hotspot issues,” the foreign ministry said, according to a Google translation.

China-Russia trade raises ‘serious concerns’

Blinken said China has played a constructive role in helping resolve global crises, including discouraging Iran and its proxies from further escalating the Middle East conflict, as well as curtailing Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

“China has demonstrated in the past when it comes to Russia and Ukraine that it can take positive actions,” he said, referencing a message delivered by China President Xi Jinping in March 2023 in which he warned Russia against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Blinken nevertheless added that he had reiterated Washington’s “serious concerns” over China’s suspected role in sustaining Moscow’s military capabilities, particularly via products that support its defense industrial base. Beijing has denied that it is assisting Russia militarily, noting that its trade with Moscow constitutes “normal economic cooperation.”

Blinken said no further action has been taken against Beijing, amid reports that Washington is drafting sanctions to cut off some Chinese banks found to be enabling such trade.

“Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China’s help,” he said. “I was extremely clear about our concerns. We’ll have to see what actions follow from that.”

‘Flooding’ international markets

The U.S. secretary’s visit to China comes as Washington and Beijing seek to improve strained bilateral relations, despite ongoing trade tensions and national security concerns.

The U.S. and its Western allies have accused Chinese companies of oversupplying international markets with low-cost goods, particularly green technologies such as electric vehicles, which they say jeopardizes domestic production.

Beijing, for its part, denies the claims, with Xi saying in a statement Friday that China’s economic development must be viewed “in a “positive light” and with Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing China’s manufacturing output as consistent with its “legitimate development rights.”

Blinken doubled down on the claims on Friday, saying the U.S. would take tough action if necessary to stem the trade flows. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned earlier this month that Washington would consider sanctions against Chinese firms that are found to be flouting fair trade practices — a stance that was closely echoed by Brussels.

“China alone is producing more than 100% of global demand” for green products, Blinken said. “It’s flooding markets … President [Joe] Biden will not let this happen on his watch.”

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s name.

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