The United States and China blamed each other on Thursday in the presence of journalists. The top diplomats from both countries have met physically for the first time since Joe Biden was President of the United States.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan opened the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, expressing concerns over the situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The United States is also concerned about Chinese cyber attacks. “All of these actions threaten global stability,” Blinken said.
Senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi reacted strongly and spoke for fifteen minutes during his opening statement. Yang said in Mandarin that the United States has a problem with democracy, referring to the assault on Capitol Hill, and that the country treats minorities badly. He also accused Americans of interfering with the domestic policies of other countries.
Surprised by Yang’s elaborate statement, Blinken asked reporters in attendance to stay a while to record his reaction. Subsequently, the Chinese delegation also spoke again. What would normally have been a 15-minute press moment turned out to be a meeting lasting over an hour.
In high-level meetings, the real talks are taking place behind closed doors, but the two delegations struggled on Thursday as to when the press had to leave.
After the meeting, a senior US official said China violated agreed protocol by speaking longer than the two minutes allowed. According to him, the Chinese took advantage of this moment to “make theater” in public for purposes of propaganda in China. Conversely, China accused the United States of violating the protocol.
China-US relations are bad
The discussion in Alaska came after Blinken had just completed a trip with allies in Asia, including Japan and South Korea. Biden’s government has increasingly criticized human rights abuses in China in recent months, much to Beijing’s dismay.
The United States and China got into talks on the wrong foot on Thursday. Under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, the relationship between the two superpowers was severely cooled by sanctions and tariffs on products.
The United States hopes to improve relations between the two countries with the two-day meeting, but the Chinese ambassador to Washington had already said Wednesday evening that the country should not be under the illusion that Beijing was going to compromise. The day before, the United States had introduced new sanctions against China because of the situation in Hong Kong.