US, Chinese officials clash in 1st high-level talks under Biden

Clay Curtis
March 22, 2021

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met China's foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday and Friday.

The US side will "discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including Xinjiang", where Washington has accused Beijing of "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, Blinken said.

Washington says Mr Blinken's Asia tour before the meeting with Chinese officials, as well as USA outreach to Europe, India and other partners, shows how the United States has strengthened its hand to confront China since Mr Biden took office in January. "That's why they're not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today".

"China will not accept unwarranted accusations from the US side", he said, adding that recent developments had plunged relations "into a period of unprecedented difficulty" that "has damaged the interests of our two peoples".

"We didn't expect to see anything in terms of substantive dialogue for the meetings, so the fact that they fell apart didn't surprise us, but the fact that they fell apart so quickly and in such spectacular pattern was really notable", said Cailin Birch, a global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Yang responded angrily by demanding the US stop pushing its own version of democracy at a time when the United States itself has been roiled by domestic discontent.

A senior Biden administration official in Anchorage accused the Chinese delegation of "grandstanding", and said it was "focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance".

A senior USA official said the conversation was "substantive, serious, and direct".

During the call, Mr Johnson said: "On behalf of the whole country I want to say how glad we are to have you here and how proud we are that you have chosen the United Kingdom to live".

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"Between our two countries we've had confrontation in the past, and the result did not serve the United States well", said Yang.

China will take strong measures as appropriate to resolutely defend national sovereignty, security and development interests, Zhao said.

As reporters were about to be initially ushered out, the American side waved them to stay, and USA officials delivered additional remarks. The meet-up is expected to last two days.

Before taking office, US President Joe Biden had been attacked by Republicans who feared his administration would take too soft an approach with China.

On the eve of the talks, Beijing had presaged what would be a contentious meeting, with its ambassador to Washington saying the United States was full of illusions if it thinks China will compromise.

China has also strongly objected to US calls for greater transparency about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the first cases of which were recorded in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

At the Alaska meeting, Blinken affirmed USA solidarity with its allies in pushing back against China's increasing efforts to spread its authoritarian mode of government through political and economic pressure.

China, in turn, accuses the US of interfering in its internal affairs and seeking to stem its economic rise. But the relationship disintegrated after the coronavirus pandemic spread from the Wuhan province across the globe and unleashed a public health and economic disaster.

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