U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday she thinks Washington and Beijing have "made some progress" in improving ties through her visit to China but expressed unease with Chinese authorities' recent coercion of American firms.
In a press conference to wrap up her four-day visit to Beijing, Yellen said the world's two largest economies have "significant disagreements" over issues such as export control measures to safeguard national security, but both sides agreed to maintain communication.
"I also expressed my worries about a recent uptick in coercive actions against American firms," she added.
Yellen's comment comes in the wake of several raids conducted on American consulting firms in recent months, possibly related to allegations of espionage and breaches of national security.
During her first China visit as the Treasury chief, Yellen said she had about 10 hours of "substantive and productive" discussions in total with senior Chinese officials, including Premier Li Qiang, Vice Premier He Lifeng and Pan Gongsheng, the new head of the People's Bank of China.
Bilateral tensions have grown recently over tit-for-tat export control measures on items related to semiconductors. Yellen stressed that Washington ensures its measures are "transparent, narrowly scoped, and targeted to clear objectives" and not intended to "gain economic advantage."
Last October, the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden announced sweeping export curbs on certain advanced computing chips and related items in an effort to hobble Beijing's bid to develop technologies for military purposes.
In possible retaliation, China unveiled shortly before Yellen's trip that it will tighten export controls of gallium and germanium -- rare metals crucial for chip production -- from Aug. 1.
Vice Premier He expressed concerns over the sanctions and restrictions imposed by the United States on China in his meeting with Yellen on Saturday, according to the Asian country's official Xinhua News Agency.
Yellen reiterated the United States is not seeking to decouple from China, saying it would be disastrous for both countries, destabilizing for the world and "virtually impossible to undertake."
Noting that Washington pursues "de-risking," or diversifying its supply chains to reduce dependency on China, Yellen said she thinks the Chinese side was assured about the difference between decoupling and de-risking and Washington's wish to continue trade and investment with Beijing in "unproblematic, uncontroversial" areas.
On Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Yellen said she urged Beijing to ensure Chinese firms avoid providing Moscow with material support to evade economic sanctions imposed by Western nations. China, which maintains close ties with Russia, opposes sanctions.
Yellen's sojourn in China follows a trip to Beijing last month by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during which the two countries agreed to stabilize their complex relationship. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is also reportedly expected to visit China later this month.