Tough talk at first face-to-face US, China meeting of Biden era

Friday, 19 Mar, 2021

U.S. and Chinese officials have exchanged sharp rebukes in the first high-level talks between the Biden administration and China, taking place in Alaska.

Noting that Anchorage is located in the middle of the air route between the capitals of China and the United States, Wang called the city a "gas station" for China-US exchanges and an "intersection" for the two countries to meet each other halfway.

It was an unusually undiplomatic sparring match, especially for a meeting called to take stock of the US-China relationship under a new American administration.

This dialogue is of great significance to the development of China-U.S. relations in the coming period, he said.

"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". -China relations for years to come. Globally, "I'm hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we're reengaged", he added.

"Many netizens on China's social media said Chinese officials were doing a good job in Alaska, and that the USA side lacked sincerity", Reuters noted. Blinken then brought the cameras back into the room to offer his own, unscripted rebuttal from the Chinese officials.

"The Chinese delegation. seems to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance", the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told reporters in Anchorage, according to Reuters.

It is not a normal way of hosting guests that the United States introduced the sanctions on the eve of the Chinese side's departure for the dialogue, Wang said. That is a typical message, but this time it was delivered with unusual force - and directly to the face of USA officials.

Mr Yang said China firmly opposed U.S. interference in its internal affairs.

If the acrimonious public exchange appeared to be a surprising departure from the diplomatic norms usually followed in such scripted meetings, it was, on one level, entirely expected.

The conference Thursday followed meetings in Asia last week in which US officials met with Japanese and South Korean officials. Under Xi Jinping, when China sees itself as having fully arrived on the world stage, Chinese diplomats seemed primed to demand US respect, rather than asking for it.

"It was the United States side that ... provoked the dispute in the first place, so the two sides had a strong smell of gunpowder and drama from the beginning in the opening remarks".

"Is this a decision made by the United States to try to gain some advantage in dealing with China?".

In their opening remarks, Blinken and Sullivan had stressed on the concerns they had heard from their allies about China's behaviour.

"No one in China or the United States should overreact to these public statements".

Blinken and allies have criticized China on a slew of issues, including the erosion of autonomy in Hong Kong, tensions around Taiwan and Tibet, the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Beijing's sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea, the theft of intellectual property and a lack of transparency over the origins of Covid-19. Beijing might be unhappy with US complaints about IP theft and trade practices, but don't rise to the same level of concern as perceived attacks on China's sovereignty.

This will particularly pose a test for India's diplomacy, starting with affecting India's defence supplies from Russia, with the US making it clear that importing Russian equipment like the S-400 missile defence system will attract sanctions as well as the USA withholding high-tech exports.

China and the United States should develop good relations with all countries in Asia-Pacific and have common friends, said Yang, adding that this is how the world works in the 21st century.

The Chinese side also plans to propose re-establishing regular high-level meetings between the two countries and scheduling a virtual summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Biden in April during a global conference on climate change, the newspaper said.

Biden convened an online meeting last Friday with leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a grouping called the Quad, which rolled out a pledge to respond to global challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and strive for a region that is free, open and unconstrained by "coercion".