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China and U.S. open Alaska meeting with undiplomatic war of words


MARCH 18, 2021

A woman wearing a face mask sits near a screen showing China and U.S. flags in Beijing, China. – Andy Wong/AP Photo

The first high-level meeting between U.S.-Chinese officials under the new Biden administration got off to a chilly start on Thursday, with senior American diplomats accusing China of threatening world stability and Chinese officials alleging America is a human rights hypocrite due to its mistreatment of Black citizens.

Afterward, a U.S. official accused the Chinese diplomats of “grandstanding.”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, with top Chinese diplomats Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi. The two countries are at odds on many issues, from cyberattacks to trade; the relationship grew steadily worse under former President Donald Trump, who used tariffs to wage a trade war on Beijing.

The Biden administration has taken a somber approach toward Beijing, whose communist government they view as America’s top geopolitical rival. To date, the administration hasn’t moved to roll back the sanctions and tariffs imposed by Trump, but it has also said it wants to work with China on common challenges, like climate change.

“We do not seek conflict, but we welcome stiff competition, and we will always stand up for our principles, for our people, and for our friends,” Sullivan said at the top of the first meeting Thursday, according to Reuters.

Blinken said the U.S. will not stop holding China accountable for its actions in places like Hong Kong, where Beijing has cracked down on democracy; its economic coercion of other countries; or what U.S. officials allege is a genocidal campaign against Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a virtual business roundtable at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Tokyo Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Defense and foreign ministers from the U.S. and Japan are to discuss their concern over China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region as the Biden administration tries to reaffirm engagement with its key regional allies. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP)

Beijing has often told the U.S. to butt out of such “internal matters.” Blinken, however, asserted that such Chinese actions “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters.”

Without that rules-based order, it would be a “far more violent and unstable world,” Blinken said, according to an account in CNN.

Yang, meanwhile, warned the United States to back off and accused it of hypocrisy. He said the United States uses its financial and military might to bully other countries. He also said America had its own long history of human rights problems, alleging that Black people are being “slaughtered” in the United States.

As reporters were about to be initially ushered out, Sullivan waved them to stay, and U.S. officials delivered additional remarks. The Chinese officials then insisted they get a second round of comments as well, according to photos and accounts from the scene.

A senior Biden administration official accused the Chinese diplomats of breaking protocol, going beyond the two-minutes the speakers had been allotted at the top of the first session.

Such “exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience,” the official said, adding that the U.S. side intended to “outline for the Chinese delegation in private the same messages we have consistently delivered in public.“

“The Chinese delegation, on the other hand, seems to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance,“ the official added.

Chinese officials had earlier tried to cast the Alaska event, which is to consist of at least three sessions over Thursday and Friday, as the potential new beginning of a longer strategic dialogue.

But the U.S. side has described the gathering as a “one-off” attempt to convey American frustrations with Beijing and get a sense of where Chinese leaders stand on various areas of dispute.

Blinken landed in Alaska after visiting U.S. allies in South Korea and Japan, where the relationship with China was a major topic.

U.S. officials, however, say they are still reviewing aspects of U.S. policy on China and intend to continue consulting with America’s allies and partners overseas.

Courtesy/Source: Politico