Top US, Chinese Diplomats Clash Publicly at First Talks of Biden Presidency

The Biden administration has made clear that it's trying to find a change in behavior from China, which has expressed hope to reset relations that had worsened drastically under former President Donald Trump.

Top US, Chinese Diplomats Clash Publicly at First Talks of Biden Presidency
Top US, Chinese Diplomats Clash Publicly at First Talks of Biden Presidency

The first high-level U.S.-China talks of the Biden administration got off to a fiery start on Thursday, with each side leveling sharp rebukes of the others' policies during a rare display that underscored the extent of bilateral tension.

The run-up to the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, which followed visits by U.S. officials to allies Japan and South Korea , was marked by a flurry of moves by Washington that showed it had been taking a troublesome stance, and blunt talk from Beijing.

"We will ... discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber-attacks on the us , economic coercion of our allies," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterparts in highly unusual extended back-and-forth ahead of cameras."Each of those actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability," he said.

The Biden administration has made clear that it's trying to find a change in behavior from China, which has expressed hope to reset relations that had worsened drastically under former President Donald Trump.China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi responded with a 15-minute speech in Chinese while the U.S. side awaited translation, lashing out about what he said was the United States' struggling democracy, poor treatment of minorities, and criticizing its foreign and trade policies.

"The us uses its military unit and financial hegemony to hold out long arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries," said Yang."It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China," he added.

‘Grandstanding’ and Protocol breaches

Throughout Yang's monologue, U.S. National Security Adviser Sullivan and other officials within the delegation passed notes to every other. At the top , Blinken held journalists within the room so he could respond.What is typically a couple of minutes of opening remarks ahead of journalists for such high-level meetings lasted for quite an hour, and therefore the two delegations tussled about when media would be ushered out of the space .

Afterwards, the us accused China of "grandstanding" while Chinese state media blamed U.S. officials for speaking too long and being "inhospitable."Both sides accused the opposite of violating diplomatic protocol, with a U.S. official saying the 2 had initially agreed two minutes of opening statements by each of the principals.

"The Chinese delegation ... seems to possess arrived bent grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance," the official told reporters at the Anchorage hotel where the meeting was happening .

"Exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed toward a domestic audience," the official added.Many netizens on China's social media said Chinese officials were doing an honest job in Alaska, which the U.S. side had shown zero sincerity.Some even characterized the talks as a "Hongmen Banquet," a historical event that happened 2,000 years ago at which a rebel leader invited another to a feast with the intention of murdering him.

Still, the 2 sides reconvened for an additional meeting on Thursday evening, and a senior Biden administration official said that the primary session was "substantive, serious, and direct," running well beyond the 2 hours originally allotted.

"We used the session, even as we had planned, to stipulate our interests and priorities, and that we heard an equivalent from our Chinese counterparts," the official said within the pool report, adding that a 3rd session of talks was scheduled for Friday morning.

While much of Biden's China policy remains being formulated, including the way to handle the tariffs on Chinese goods implemented under Trump, his administration has thus far placed a stronger emphasis on democratic values and allegations of human rights abuses by China.China firmly opposes U.S. interference in what it regards as its internal affairs.

Terms of disagreement

Washington says Blinken's Asia tour before the meeting with Chinese officials, also as U.S. outreach to Europe, India and other partners, shows how the us has strengthened its hand to confront China since Biden took office in January.

But the 2 sides appeared primed to agree on little or no at the talks.

Even the status of the meeting became a detail , with China insisting it's a "strategic dialogue," harkening back to bilateral mechanisms of years past. The U.S. side rejected that, calling it a one-off session.On the eve of the talks, the us issued a flurry of actions directed at China, including a move to start revoking Chinese telecoms licenses, subpoenas to multiple Chinese information technology companies over national security concerns, and updated sanctions on China over a rollback of democracy in Hong Kong .

Yang questioned Blinken on Thursday about whether the sanctions were announced before the meeting intentionally .Washington has said it's willing to figure with China when it's in U.S. interests, citing climate policy and therefore the coronavirus pandemic as examples. Blinken said Washington hoped to ascertain China use its influence with North Korea to influence it to offer up its nuclear weapons.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the middle for Strategic and International Studies, said tough statements from each side within the run-up to the meeting had created a risk that it might devolve into an exchange of accusations and demands.

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