The following is a transcript of an interview between “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for making time after an extremely long and intense, uh, past two days of talks, your message has consistently been that you are here to open up lines of communication to avoid a military clash, but you just said China did not agree to open that military to military line of talks. Did Xi Jinping just say no?
SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: It’s a work in progress. This is something that we need to do in the interests of both of our countries, that is not only to establish and reestablish and strengthen lines of communication across our government, which we have done, uh, starting with this trip. And I believe, uh, visits to follow by a number of my colleagues. And then Chinese officials come to the United States, hugely important if we’re going to responsibly manage the relationship, if we’re going to communicate clearly and try to avoid the competition that we have very under conflict. But an aspect of that that really is important is military to military.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm.
SEC. BLINKEN: We don’t have an agreement on that yet. It’s something we’re going to keep working. I made very clear to our Chinese counterparts, the importance that we attach, uh, to that, something that is also profoundly in their interest. Because again, we both agree that we want to, uh, at the very least make sure that we don’t inadvertently have a conflict–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SEC. BLINKEN: –because of miscommunication because of, uh, misunderstanding.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So- Xi Jinping didn’t say absolutely not. It was–
SEC. BLINKEN: No–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –not a commitment?
SEC. BLINKEN: –this is a work in progress. We’re working on it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will the defense chiefs at least talk to each other?
SEC BLINKEN: Well, again, to be, to be seen, we’ve made clear that we think that’s important more than important, uh, imperative. Uh, I think the Chinese understand very well, uh, because I made very clear where we’re coming from on this and we’ll keep working it
MARGARET BRENNAN: During the cold war the U-S and the Soviet union had that hotline. Is that the kind of thing you’re imagining, how would this kind of communication–
SEC. BLINKEN: It’s it is less a hotline and more regular engagement, regular communication, so that they understand what we’re doing and not doing. We understand what they’re doing and not doing. We have greater clarity on each other’s intent in, in different places. And in particular, when we have, um, incidents like the incidents that we just had a couple of weeks ago with, uh, their driving their boats much too close to ours, or they’re their planes flying very dangerous ways near ours, that we have a channel established, uh, that we can go to, uh, to, um, deal with the problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that architecture just doesn’t exist right now. Which–
SEC. BLINKEN: Well, we of course have, have, have many ways to, to communicate with, with, uh, the Chinese government. It’s exactly what we’re doing. And we’re seeing that now pick up in part as a result of this, this trip, it’s fundamentally in our interest to, to do that. Um, but one aspect that that remains is the military to military, and we’ll keep pressing it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you assess that China is not committing because they benefit somehow from ambiguity because it complicates the US presence in the Pacific?
SEC BLINKEN: Well, I don’t wanna speak for them, uh, or attribute, uh, anything to them. Uh–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you have a theory.
SEC BLINKEN: Uh, well we have some, we know that they have some concerns, including, uh, some of our sanctions, for example, uh, that’s the problem for them —
MARGARET BRENNAN: On the defense chief.
SEC. BLINKEN: for example, which does not prevent at all contact or communication between the defense chief and Secretary Austin. So again, this is something that we’ve engaged on these past couple of days. Uh, China knows exactly where we’re coming from, the importance that we attach to it, why we think it’s beneficial to both of us. And as I said, we’ll keep working it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you offered to lift the sanctions off of their defense secretary, their defense chief?
SEC. BLINKEN: It’s not necessary because again, uh, we’re, they’re perfectly able, we’re perfectly able to have these contacts with, uh, their defense chief.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that sounds like a no, that wasn’t, that wasn’t an offer. The, the other thing that you really emphasized was the need to talk about fentanyl –
SEC. BLINKEN: Mhmm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: – which is killing Americans.
SEC. BLINKEN: That’s right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that the Chinese state can really turn that up and turn that down?
SEC. BLINKEN: Yes. Yes. We, we need to see, uh, much greater cooperation when it comes to fentanyl. We’ve seen some of that in the past. In fact, a few years ago, China actually scheduled fentanyl, made it, uh, put it on a prohibited list. And one result of that was that, uh, actually manufactured fentanyl that had been coming to the United States from China, that pretty much went to zero. What’s happened since though is that the chemicals that can be used to make fentanyl so-called precursors–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mmhmm.
SEC. BLINKEN: –those have been moving, um, liberally to primarily to Mexico, where it gets turned into fentanyl and then winds up in the United States. So, part of the challenge is making sure that chemical manufacturers that are producing these precursors in China, and then in some cases, inadvertently sending it to the wrong people in, in, in Mexico or other places sometimes intentionally, deliberately that’s, what’s gotta stop. I made very clear to, to China: This is an area where we want and need to see real cooperation. As you said, this is a crisis for us, the number one killer of Americans, age 18 to 49 – fentanyl. Uh, so the best way to deal effectively with this problem, across the board, we’re working of course, on, on dealing with demand in the United States, we’re dealing with law enforcement, um, with Mexico, we’re dealing with putting, um, technology on our borders to detect, uh, fentanyl and other, um, and other synthetic opioids. But we also want to go to the source and that is these precursor chemicals. I believe this is an area where the United States and China can and must work together. It’s not about point- it’s not about pointing fingers. It’s simply, uh, finding a way to cooperate and to do it in a way that for example, their companies, um, uh, get information sharing so that they really know, um, who they’re dealing with on the other end, that we have better labeling, uh, that we have, um, these know your customer protocols. So again, uh, they know that, uh, they’re, uh, not sending this stuff to people who are going to use to turn it into fentanyl. And in the case of companies that, um, are doing this intentionally, deliberately, then of course, if we have information, we want China to act on it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’ve had lawmakers in the U.S. say that this is done intentionally by the Chinese state. Do you believe that?
SEC. BLINKEN: So, all I can tell you is this, um, we’ve seen cooperation from them in the past, and that’s made a difference that halted more or less over the last, uh, few years. They have, um, issues that they’ve raised to try to explain why they’re not doing as much as they can.
MARGARET BRENNAN: They have complained about sanctions again.
SEC BLINKEN: They’ve complained about sanctions. They’ve complained about the fact that they scheduled fentanyl and we haven’t. Um, and in fact, one of the things that we should do regardless is to schedule fentanyl, but that doesn’t take the, uh, the responsibility from them in working with us and cooperating. And as I, as I, as I put it to them, this is an area where we can and should work together. And here’s the other thing, Margaret, what’s happened, uh, in part is that our market in the United States horrifically has become saturated. Last year, we seized, we seized, um, enough fentanyl to kill every single American. So the cartels, the criminal enterprises that are engaged in this are trying to make markets in other places we’ve seen fentanyl use go up dramatically in Canada to the north, in Mexico itself, but also in other parts of, um, uh, central, uh, Latin America, mm-hmm, and also in Europe, we’re starting to see it and in, uh, Asia. That means that the demand on China from other countries, not just from us to take effective action, I think is only gonna grow.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Or they’re also seeing a financial benefit.
SEC. BLINKEN: Well, again, uh, that may be the case, but that’s why we are sanctioning, um, companies, uh, individuals, when we can find them, we are taking law enforcement action and we’ve made very, we’ve been very clear with China that we’ll continue to take those actions to protect our people
MARGARET BRENNAN: For months now. Uh, the Biden administration has been talking about, uh, this restriction on outbound investment, um, for American companies into China, particularly regarding sensitive national security issues. Are you gonna make any changes to that based on what you heard during these last two days?
SEC. BLINKEN: No, we’ve been on a, on a course, um, when it comes to outward, uh, outbound investment, I’m not gonna get, uh, ahead of the news, but it’s something that we’re very actively working on. What I did do during this trip was to try to explain very clearly what we’re doing and what we’re not doing. What we’re not doing is trying to hold China back economically, uh, to contain it. Uh, what we’re not doing is decoupling the economic relationship, that would be profoundly against our own interests. Secretary yell, treasury secretary testified to this just a couple of weeks ago. She said it would be disastrous to decouple our economies. Economically. We benefit tremendously from trade investment when it’s fair, when it’s on the level. One of the things that, uh, it was very important for me to do on this trip, uh, was to, um, advance concerns that our companies and workers have in China, but when it comes to particularly sensitive technology that China is using to advance its own very opaque, nuclear weapons program, to build hypersonic missiles, to, uh, create technology that can be used for repressive purposes. It’s not in our interest to provide that to them or to sell that to them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SEC. BLINKEN: And similarly, when it comes to investments in enterprises companies that may be engaged–
MARGARET BRENNAN: mm-hmm
SEC. BLINKEN: –in some of this or may, or that may facilitate it. It’s not in our interest to, to do that. So what I’ve told, um, our, our counterparts here is this is for us, as we’ve said about building a very high fence around a very small piece of land–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm.
SEC. BLINKEN: –and that small piece of land has very sensitive technology that could be used against us. We’re not gonna let that happen.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you raise the listening post in Cuba That was recently disclosed and we talked about?
SEC. BLINKEN: I did, I’m not gonna characterize their response, but I told them that this is, um, a serious concern for us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm. How widespread is this in Latin America?
SEC. BLINKEN: So we’ve been taking, uh, we’ve been taking steps over the past couple of years, diplomatically, wherever we’ve seen, uh, China trying to create that kind of presence. We’ve been in there pushing back against it. And we’ve had some success in doing that. This is nothing new–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm.
SEC. BLINKEN: –uh, but it is something of, of real concern. I was very clear about our concerns with, uh, with China, but regardless of that, uh, we’ve been going, uh, around to various places where we see this kind of activity, uh, trying to put a stop to it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you get any commitment from Beijing to help push back against Kim Jong Un and his missile testing and his nuclear program?
SEC BLINKEN: Uh, no commitment, but, uh, I think China understands that, um, the most destabilizing actor in the area is Kim Jong Un with, uh, his repeated missile tests and possibly even a seventh nuclear test. Um, and here’s what I told, uh, our Chinese counterparts. We want their cooperation in trying to move Kim Jong Un away from all this testing of missiles and to a negotiating table to deal with the nuclear program, to deal with the missile program. But if they can’t or won’t use their influence with North Korea to do that, for whatever reason–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm
SEC. BLINKEN: –then we have to continue to take steps along with Korea, along with Japan, to protect ourselves, to protect our allies. Uh, and these are steps that are not directed to China, including more defense assets, right. Uh, in the region, uh, exercises, work together, not directed to China, but that China probably won’t like, so our expectation is that China will find ways to use the influence it has with North Korea. Again, in the past, we’ve had some success, uh, at doing that–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm.
SEC. BLINKEN: –um, but they need to recognize that if they don’t or won’t for whatever reason, uh, then we have to take steps to defend ourselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you raise that specific thing to Xi Jinping?
SEC BLINKEN: Uh, oh yes. Well, raise that in detail with my two other, uh, interlocutors, the, uh, state counselor and the director for foreign policy, um, uh, and more, more generically with, uh, Xi Jin Ping, we had, we spent, I think something like eight hours in conversation with, uh, the state counselor foreign minister, about three and a half hours in conversation with, um, director, uh, Won Ye and had about, uh, maybe an hour or so with Xi Jing Ping. The conversation with, with, with President Xi was at higher level at a, you know, more 60,000 feet. We weren’t getting in to some of these specific issues, but it was very important to have that conversation with him to, to share what we believed we needed to do in terms of the relationship, uh, how we need to deal with our differences, how we need to see if we can find ways to, uh, to cooperate more. And that starts with, uh, this, uh, engagement, the high-level communications, getting back to the agenda that actually President Xi and President Biden said when they met in Bali at the end of last year,
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are the first secretary of state to visit this country in five years.
SEC. BLINKEN: That’s right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But given where the relationship is right now, can you imagine President Biden coming to China? Will that happen?
SEC. BLINKEN: Uh, never say never, but let, we’ve gotta start with where we’re, where we’re starting from, which is getting back to sustained high-level engagement across the government. And I think, again, you’re gonna see that in the, uh, in the weeks ahead, I also invited my Chinese counterpart to come to the United States and he agreed. So we’ll find a time to do that. Um, and of course, President Biden, President Xi have, um, met many times before.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will they meet this fall?
SEC BLINKEN: There’s the possibility of, of meeting this fall, including at the, uh, the APEC meetings that we’re hosting in San Francisco at the end of the year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm. And what is it that you need to take home to Washington to make decisions about…. like what made this trip worth it?
SEC BLINKEN: Oh, uh, look, I think we were in a, in a place where the relationship was increasingly unstable. I think we’ve injected some greater stability into it. Uh, we now have, uh, a trajectory on engagements across our respective governments. That’s good because, uh, diplomacy, talking, engaging is actually the best way to advance virtually all of the interests that, uh, uh, that we have that are in play in China–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm,
SEC. BLINKEN: –both in terms of dealing with our very profound differences. And also, as I said, seeing if we can find areas to cooperate, like on- like on fentanyl, uh, we have some American citizens who are being detained here–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm
SEC. BLINKEN –or prevented from leaving. Well, if we’re not engaged directly, uh, we’re probably not gonna resolve that problem. That’s something I also spent some time on. So this is a process. It, it’s not one trip. It’s not one meeting. Uh, there, the relationship is so complicated and so consequential that it takes a lot of work and these are hard issues, hard problems, but you have to start somewhere. And I think we’ve made a better start or restart as a result of these couple of days with a lot more to follow.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you get any commitment on those three wrongfully detained Americans?
SEC. BLINKEN: Uh, we have a commitment to continue to work, um, hard on resolving, uh, these cases. And for me, that’s right up there from–
MARGARET BRENNAN: From the Chinese government?
SEC. BLINKEN: Yes, for me, that is job number one, when it comes to looking out for the security and the safety of Americans abroad and notably those who are being arbitrarily detained.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm. Mark Swidan’s health in particular is a worry. His mother has spoken to CBS and other news organizations.
SEC BLINKEN: Yes, I’m, I’m, I’m deeply concerned about that. And that’s exactly why I, I not only raised, but talked some length about the individual cases of the detained, uh, Americans.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we in a place though, as two governments where you’re negotiating or even talking about a prisoner release, or is this just–
SEC BLINKEN: Yes, we are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are–
SEC. BLINKEN: We are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And there’s progress?
SEC BLINKEN: Uh, again, I, I don’t wanna get into the, uh, the details, but we are, uh, very actively talking about that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that would certainly be a breakthrough in the relationship to bring those Americans home.
SEC. BLINKEN: It would, regardless of anything else be, um, a very important and positive development and we’re working intensely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Um, can I ask you just to button up on the, where we started this? Do you have any assessment as to why China wouldn’t want more communication with the United States? How do they benefit?
SEC BLINKEN: Oh, I think, and again, I can’t speak for them. I don’t, uh, want to put words or ideas in their mouth and heads, but I think clearly the fact that we’re here, that we had two, uh, very lengthy, uh, but also I think, uh, very candid, very detailed and in a number of places, constructive conversations and talks. I think that’s evidence that they do want that just as we think it’s important that there’s agreement on the proposition, that each of us has an obligation to responsibly manage this relationship. Uh, we agree on that because I think we each see it as in our own interest. There’s another reason we agree on that. Um, there’s a demand signal from countries around the world that we do that. Um, and I hear that wherever I go, I know that China hears that. So I think they’re being responsible to that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that also lessens the pressure on China when they at least make motions to show that they are making a good faith effort towards diplomacy. That’s what your critics would say, right? That America’s getting played.
SEC. BLINKEN: Listen. Um, the only way we’re going to be able to see and test whether we can actually make progress on the many areas of concern that we have with China, as well as the, what opportunities there are to cooperate is by engaging, is by talking, it would be irresponsible not to do that. Um, it would be irresponsible in terms of those, uh, suffering from the, uh, horrific affliction of, uh, of fentanyl, irresponsible in terms of the detained Americans, um, irresponsible in terms of our workers and businesses who are engaged here, but in many ways are being treated badly or unfairly. Um, so not engaging that is not gonna get you any results, it’s necessary. It’s not always sufficient, but it’s, it’s necessary in order to actually advance and make progress. And for, um, their own reasons. I think, uh, Beijing understands that as well. That’s why we’ve had these, uh, these meetings these past two days. It’s also why I expect you’ll see more to come, but the bottom line is this, Margaret. Um, my job, our jobs are to defend and advance the interests of, uh, of our country and our fellow Americans. And we believe that one way to do that, a hugely important way to do that is through engagement is through diplomacy if you’re talking last thing. We come at this from a position of strength. Um, two and a half years ago, we, the president made, uh, two major decisions. One was to reinvest in America. And as a result of these historic investments, um, infrastructure, um, technology, the chips act, um, research and development, the, um, Inflation Reduction Act. We are much stronger at home and much more competitive. Second, we reinvested in our alliances, our partnerships, we re-energized them. We re engaged them. And one product of that is we have much greater alignment with key partners in allies, in Europe and in Asia about how to approach China.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.
SEC. BLINKEN: So our strength at home are standing in the world much improved, and that’s very good when it comes to dealing with the challenges posed by China.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did, um, Vladimir Putin come up?
SEC. BLINKEN: Oh yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The partnership without limits. Are there any limits on that?
SEC. BLINKEN: What, what came up was of course, the, uh, Russian aggression against Ukraine and our (ROOM NOISE) our hope that, um, if there’s an opportunity, uh, China can be, um, helpful, productive, positive in helping to bring the aggression to an end . And we’ve actually, uh, said that we’ve welcomed some of the things that, uh, that they’ve done, including the fact that, uh, President Xi spoke to, uh, President Zelenskyy, statements that China’s made about the use of nuclear weapons, very important, uh, as well as some of the ideas that were in the peace proposal that, that they put out. Not everything’s good, but there are important elements, including, uh, what they say is critical, which is upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries. So, there may be a point where, um, China can play a, a positive, constructive role in this. It’s something we talked about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.
SEC. BLINKEN: Good to be with you.