A senior US diplomat arrived in Beijing Sunday ahead of schedule as the reports of US protection to escaped Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng triggered tension between both the countries.
Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State, reached Beijing ahead of the annual high-level US-China diplomatic and economic talks scheduled to start Thursday.
The US embassy officials refused to explain the reasons for the advancement of Campbell's visit, but an Associated Press report said that the diplomat was expected to discuss issues ranging from the US support to the escaped blind human rights activist to proposed arms sale to Taiwan.
Guangcheng, who was under house arrest at his intensely guarded home, mysteriously escaped the detention on the night of April 22. According media reports, he has taken refuge in the US embassy in China.
Guangcheng was kept under house arrest for exposing the forced abortions and sterilizations conducted in his village as part of China's one-child policy.
Though both the US and China have refused to confirm the news, it is believed that the US's reported support to the Chinese dissident has irked China. The issue is expected to cast a shadow over the US-China annual talks this week which will be led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
The dialogues between two largest economies are expected to discuss a number of issues such as monetary measures, North Korea aid, Taiwan issue and human rights.
Apart from the Guangcheng issue, a proposal to sell the US warplanes to Taiwan is also unlikely go down well with the China. Though Taiwan declared independence six decades ago by splitting from China, the Chinese still considers it as an integral part of their country.
The Chinese government is furious over 40-year-old Guangcheng's escape as it has come as an embarrassment to the Communist Party which is still struggling to come out of a political scandal involving a senior official, Bo Xilai.
According to reports, the authorities in China have begun to roundup the relatives and friends of the escaped activist and has already arrested his immediate relatives and two other human right activists who allegedly aided his escape.
However, the Chinese human right organizations and Guangcheng's supporters are asking the US to protect him and have gone the microblogging route to express their support.
The US officials said that it was unlikely that US would hand over Guangcheng to Chinese authorities, if they had him.
I can't imagine they will tank the relationship. This isn't the same as a spy plane incident or Tiananmen Square. I do think they will try to manage it, an unnamed senior Obama administration official was quoted as saying by Reuters.
However, the US is also not expected to embarrass China in a crucial period when it needs China's help in reigning over North Korea, Iran and Syria.
With its leadership succession just ahead few months, the Chinese also would not choose to deteriorate the relations, Reuters reported.
It is not yet clear how both the governments will go ahead and handle the issue if the US has the dissident activist is in its custody. International analysts also believe that there are too many stakes involved for both countries in pursuing harmonious mutual relations, thus forcing both countries to sort out an amicable solution to the issue.