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China’s top diplomat in NBA charm offensive ahead of crucial visits

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China’s latest foreign minister made a video appearance at a basketball game in Washington to mark Lunar Latest Yr, amid heightened efforts to maintain tensions between the worldwide powers in check.

The frosty relations between the world’s two biggest economies have shown signs of thawing, with a flurry of top-level meetings involving officials from either side.

Qin Gang, who had earlier served as Beijing’s ambassador to the US, addressed tens of 1000’s of basketball fans on Saturday in a pre-recorded video during a National Basketball Association (NBA) game between the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magic.

“I wish the Chinese and American peoples a prosperous Yr of the Rabbit and a vivid future,” Qin said within the 40-second video played in the course of the game’s intermission.

Qin, who served as China’s ambassador to the USA for 17 months from July 2021, has walked a tremendous line between defending Beijing’s core interests and toning down the country’s assertive diplomatic stance.

During his yr in Washington, Qin shot free throws at a Wizards game, threw the primary pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball match, and shared a ride in a Tesla with billionaire Elon Musk.

The outreach effort comes ahead of two key visits by US officials to Beijing.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will soon travel to China, following “constructive” discussions along with her Chinese counterpart on Wednesday, Washington said, because the two countries seek to spice up ties and reduce tensions.

The primary face-to-face meeting between Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, held in Zurich, was “candid, substantive and constructive”, the US treasury department said in an announcement.

That announcement got here a day after it was confirmed that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would make a long-awaited trip to Beijing on February 5-6.

He shall be the primary secretary of state to travel to China since a temporary visit in October 2018 by his Republican predecessor Mike Pompeo, known for his blistering criticism of Beijing.

China said it would strive to “recalibrate” its relationship with the US in December after a gathering between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali last yr.

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