US, China talks off to heated start; spar at outset of first meeting in Alaska

ANI
·5-min read
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Representative Image

Alaska [US], March 19 (ANI): The first high-level meeting between Biden administration and China in Alaska saw acrimonious exchanges between US and Chinese officials, indicating the deep divide between the two sides despite the change of guard at the White House.

At the meeting in Anchorage, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's statement that the Biden administration would bring up "deep concerns" about Beijing's actions around the world and his condemnation of China for breaking rules that keep at bay "a more violent world," was met with immediate pushback from the Chinese.

According to CNN, the Chinese had accused the US delegation of being "condescending" in its tone, while a US official said the representatives from Beijing seemed "intent on grandstanding."

"The Chinese side felt compelled to make this speech because of the tone of the U.S. side. Well, isn't this the intention of United States, judging from what - or the way that you have made your opening remarks, that it wants to speak to China in a condescending way from a position of strength," Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said.

CNN reported that the meeting quickly "veered away" from the usual diplomatic throat-clearing that takes place in front of the cameras before the real meetings get underway.

As the two sides traded the unusually intense remarks, Blinken called the cameras back to counter the Chinese officials' comments -- particularly their slights about US democracy -- setting off an unexpected chain of rebuttals as each side responded to the other's remarks.

The clash demonstrated that the relationship Blinken has called "the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century" will be fraught and difficult as the Biden team "grapples with an ascendant and increasingly assertive" China abroad while it faces serious challenges at home that Beijing will seek to exploit as it attempts to underscore US weakness.

Following the public exchange, a US senior administration official said the Chinese seemed to have arrived with a focus "on public theatrics and dramatics over substance."

"They made that clear by promptly violating protocol; we had agreed to short (two-minute) opening statements by each principal," they said in a statement to the traveling press. While Blinken's and national security adviser Jake Sullivan's opening remarks stuck close to that allotment, the Chinese delegation spoke for more than 20 minutes as the conversation got increasingly more tense.

"The United States delegation came to Anchorage committed to laying out the principles, interests, and values that animate our engagement with Beijing," the official said. "We have continued on with our planned presentation, knowing that exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience."

Blinken had initially said the US intends to defend the "rules-based order" without which there would be a "much more violent world" and said that Chinese activities in places like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as its cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion of US allies, "threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That's why they're not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today."

As per CNN, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi pushed back, warning the US against meddling in China's "internal affairs," contesting the US right to speak for other countries, charging that the US is the "champion" of cyber attacks, mocking US domestic stability and challenging America's own record on human rights.

"We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world," Yang said, in extended opening remarks. "Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States," Yang said. "According to opinion polls, the leaders of China have the wide support of the Chinese people."

Yang challenged the US claims to global leadership saying that "the US does not represent the world, it only represents the government of the United States," before State Councilor Wang Yi weighed in to say China would not accept "the unwarranted accusations from the US side."

As per CNN, after Wang's remarks and aides started to usher cameras out of the room, Blinken interjected, "Hold on one second please." The top US diplomat motioned for the press to return. "Hold on one second," he said. "Director, state counselor, given your extended remarks, permit me please to add just a few of my own before we get down to work."

Blinken said that in calls with nearly 100 counterparts, he was "hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we're re-engaged with our allies and partners. I'm also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking."

Blinken addressed the jabs at US domestic affairs saying that a hallmark of US leadership at home is "a constant quest to, as we say, form a more perfect union. And that quest by definition, acknowledges our imperfections, acknowledges that we're not perfect."

"We make mistakes. We, we have reversals, we take steps back. But what we've done throughout our history is to confront those challenges -- openly, publicly, transparently -- not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don't exist," Blinken continued.

Sullivan said that a 'confident country' is "able to look hard at its own shortcomings, and constantly seek to improve."

The US will not shift from the increasingly tough position on Beijing taken by the Trump administration, but Biden's team has said it plans to apply those tougher standards more effectively by working closely with allies -- and they'll seek to do it without the internal divisions that plagued the Trump administration or the former President's name-calling, which many analysts say undermined US-China policy in the past as reported by CNN.

The Hill further reported that Administration officials stressed their meeting was not a counter to China but that all countries share concerns about Beijing.

The second session of the Chinese-US high-level talks has started in Alaska after delegations from both countries accused each other of violating the protocol during the first meeting, a state-run broadcaster reported on Friday.

According to China Central Television (CCTV), the second round of talks started at around 7:45 p.m. (03:45 GMT) Thursday in Alaska's largest city of Anchorage, as reported by Sputnik. (ANI)