US and China spar at outset of first meeting in Alaska

The Biden administration and Chinese officials sparred in their first face-to-face meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday. 

The Biden administration told their Chinese counterparts that the relationship between the countries would be one of “stiff competition.” Beijing answered the U.S. comments by alleging hypocrisy and bullying. 

The remarks were made at the opening of the high-profile discussion, a signal of fraught tensions between the world’s two largest powers. 

Senior administration officials had earlier set low expectations for the meeting — with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan taking stock of where the relationship stands between Washington and Beijing in talks with their counterparts: Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi.

Sullivan said in his remarks that while the U.S. does not seek conflict with China, the relationship would be defined by “stiff competition,” Reuters reported.  

Blinken said the Biden administration has “deep concerns” about China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as cyber attacks on the United States and economic coercion of American allies, according to Reuters.

The secretary further warned that these actions “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability” and pushed back on Chinese allegations that the U.S. is interfering in domestic affairs, according to an account by CNN

“Our administration is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the United States and to strengthen the rules-based international order,” the secretary reportedly said.

“That system is not an abstraction. It helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts effectively and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules. The alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all. And that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.”  

But the Chinese hit back, with Yang accusing the United States of using its military power and financial supremacy to exert pressure on countries and of abusing national security to threaten the future of international trade, Reuters reported. 

The Chinese foreign minister also reportedly pushed back on Blinken raising Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan as all inseparable from mainland China and the central government of Beijing, and opposed U.S. interference in its own internal affairs. 

Yang further said human rights in the U.S. were at a low point with Black Americans being “slaughtered.” 

He called for abandoning a “Cold War mentality” and said, “The way we see the relationship with the United States is as President Xi Jinping has said, that is we hope to see no confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation with the United States.” 

The summit between U.S. and Chinese officials is expected to take place over three meetings between Thursday and Friday, but senior administration officials said earlier they don’t expect any concrete deliverables or joint statements to come from the meeting. 

The Biden administration has identified the U.S. relationship with China as the greatest strategic challenge of the 21st century and the meeting in Alaska was carefully coordinated to occur following meetings with strategic allies that are on the front lines of dealing with the nation. 

Blinken arrived in Alaska following his first trip overseas to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is now traveling to India.

President Biden also virtually met with leaders of India, Japan and Australia, an informal group known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

Administration officials stressed their meeting was not a counter to China but that all countries share concerns about Beijing.

Tags Antony Blinken Jake Sullivan Joe Biden Lloyd Austin

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