Uncertainty Surrounds Talks Between the U.S. and China

She had also delivered what she described as a tough message. The Biden administration was willing to work to promote trade with China for many categories of goods. But the administration was not going to heed China’s biggest request: that the United States reduce stringent controls on exports of the most advanced semiconductors and the equipment to make them.

“We don’t negotiate on matters of national security,” Ms. Raimondo told reporters during her visit.

While she called the trip “an excellent start,” the big question is where it will lead. There is a long history of frustrating and unproductive economic dialogues between the United States and China, and there are not many reasons to believe this time will prove different.

Forums for discussion may have helped resolve some individual business complaints, but they did not reverse a broad, yearslong slide toward more conflict in the bilateral relationship. Now, the U.S.-China relationship faces a variety of significant security and economic issues, including China’s more aggressive posture abroad, its use of U.S. technology to advance its military and its recent raids on foreign-owned businesses.

Ms. Raimondo says she has the backing of the president and U.S. officials. And Biden administration officials argue that even the shift to begin talking has been significant, after a particularly tense period. Relations between the United States and China became frosty last August when Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker at the time, visited Taiwan, and they froze entirely after a Chinese surveillance balloon flew across the United States in February.

Ms. Raimondo’s trip capped a summer of outreach by four senior Biden officials. R. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China, who took office in January 2022 and accompanied Ms. Raimondo on the trip, said on Tuesday that American officials “literally were not talking to the Chinese leadership at a senior level, my first 15 months here.”

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