US and China publicly have rebuked each other in the first in-person talks since President Joe Biden took office. The strained relations between the global rivals were put on rare public display in Alaska, as senior officials traded jabs.
In a highly unusual extended back-and-forth exchange in front of the cameras, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan opened the meeting with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi and State Councillor, Wang Yi.
Blinken said China’s actions “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.
“We will …discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber-attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies.”US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
Yang responded with a 15-minute speech declaring that “China is firmly opposed to US interference in China’s internal affairs.”
He lashed out at what he called a struggling US democracy, poor treatment of minorities and foreign and trade policies.
“The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long-arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries. It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China.
“Let me say here that in front of the Chinese side, the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.
“… the US side was not even qualified to say such things, even 20 years or 30 years back. Because this is not the way to deal with the Chinese people …”State Councillor, Wang Yi.
‘Grandstanding’ stance US
Typically, the opening remarks for the press at such high-level meetings last a few minutes. However, the delegations exchanged accusations for over an hour and tussled about when to usher the media out.
A senior official from the State Department told reporters that China had immediately “violated” agreed-to protocol. The agreed-to protocol, according to him, was two minutes of opening remarks by each of the principals.
“The Chinese delegation …seems to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance. They made that clear by promptly violating protocol.”
However, the official said, the US would continue with its meeting as planned. He added that “exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience”.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the talks, the US announced new sanctions over Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong. Biden’s administration also moved to begin revoking Chinese telecoms licences and also issued subpoenas to multiple Chinese information technology companies over national security concerns.
Yang questioned Blinken on whether the sanctions were announced ahead of the meeting on purpose.
“Well, I think we thought too well of the United States. We thought that the US side would follow the necessary diplomatic protocols.”Wang Yi
Jake Sullivan said the US doesn’t seek conflict with China, but would stand up for its principles and friends. He touted this year’s Mars rover landing success, saying the US promise was in its ability to constantly reinvent itself.
Washington has said it is willing to work with China when it is in the interests of the US and has cited the fight against climate change and the coronavirus pandemic as examples.