Biden says he’s proud of secretary of State after confrontation with China
President Biden said Friday that he is proud of Secretary of State Antony Blinken after the top U.S. diplomat had confrontational encounter with Chinese officials a day earlier during a meeting in Alaska.
“I’m very proud of the secretary of State,” Biden told reporters in brief remarks before departing for a trip to Atlanta.
The president’s remarks followed a testy start to the first high-level meeting between Biden administration officials and the Chinese in Anchorage. The opening statements from the officials, which were open to press, were notably sharp and adversarial for such talks.
Blinken, a longtime foreign policy adviser to Biden, said that U.S. officials intended to raise their “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyberattacks on the United States and economic coercion toward our allies.”
“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” Blinken said.
His remarks were not well-received by the Chinese. Yang Jiechi, foreign affairs director of the Chinese Communist Party, responded by questioning the status of U.S. democracy and suggesting the U.S. has its own human rights problems to deal with, citing the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Yang also took issue with the “tone” of the Americans.
“Well, isn’t this the intention of United States, judging from what — or the way that you have made your opening remarks, that it wants to speak to China in a condescending way from a position of strength?” Yang said, according to a translation of his remarks. “I think we thought too well of the United States. We thought that the U.S. side will follow the necessary diplomatic protocols. So for China it was necessary that we made our position clear.”
Blinken and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, are scheduled to hold further meetings with Yang and Chinese state councilor Wang Yi in Anchorage on Friday, but Thursday’s interactions suggested the meetings would be characterized by confrontation.
Biden reacted to the developments as he left the White House on Friday morning for Atlanta, where he is touring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters and meeting with local Asian American community leaders after Tuesday evening’s shooting spree in and around the city, which left eight dead, including six Asian women.
Blinken’s remarks reflected Biden’s approach of directly raising concerns with China’s human rights and economic abuses and other aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Biden administration is also seeking to cooperate with China in areas of mutual concern, such as climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, though the tensions on display Thursday indicate that such cooperation may be difficult. The administration has sought to work in lockstep with U.S. allies to counter China, and Blinken met with officials in Japan and South Korea this week before traveling to Alaska.
“I said that the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, adversarial where it must be,” he said in his remarks in Anchorage. “Our intent is to be direct about our concerns, direct about our priorities, with the goal of a more clear-eyed relationship between our countries moving forward.”
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