Talks between the US and China have started rough on Thursday, as both sides persuaded and reprimanded each other in an unusual public display of tensions.
The meeting in Anchorage, Alaska was the first high-level meeting of the two countries under the President’s leadership. Joe Biden, and followed after more than two years of rocky relations between the two countries.
What was initially supposed to be a four-minute photo shoot eventually lasted more than an hour as both sides traded prickly issues from U.S.-Chinese relations and the concerns of Washington allies. Journalists were told not to leave because both sides wanted to add their refutation.
The U.S. delegation was led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Chinese Foreign Minister and State Counselor Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Committee of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Communist Party, led the Chinese delegation.
Here are some excerpts and highlights from the meeting:
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken:
I said that the United States ’relations with China will be competitive where it needs to be, collaborative where it can be, rival where it needs to be. I guess our discussions here in Alaska will trigger all of that. We intend to be direct about our concerns, directly about our priorities, with a view to a clearer relationship between our countries moving forward.
… I must tell you in my short time as Secretary of State, I have spoken to, I think, almost a hundred colleagues from all over the world. And I just traveled to Japan and South Korea, as I mentioned. I have to tell you that what I hear is very different from what you have described. I hear the deep satisfaction that the United States has returned, that we have reconnected with our allies and partners. I also hear deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi:
China has certainly not in the past, and will not accept unjustified accusations by the American side in the future. In the past few years, China’s legitimate rights and interests have been directly suppressed, plunging Sino-US relations into an unprecedented period.
… China calls on the American side to completely abandon the practice of hegemony of intentional interference in Chinese internal affairs. This is a long-standing issue and should be changed. It’s time to change that.
Chinese Director of the Central Committee on Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi
China and the United States are major states and both show important responsibilities. We must both contribute to peace, stability and the development of the world, in areas like Covid-19, to the resumption of economic activity in the world and to responding to climate change.
We can do many things together and where our interests converge. So what we need to do is abandon the Cold War mentality and approach the zero-sum game.
… So let me say here that, before the Chinese side, the United States does not have the qualifications to say that they want to talk to China from a position of strength. The American side was not even qualified to say such things even 20 or 30 years ago, because that is not the way to deal with the Chinese. If the United States wants to deal properly with the Chinese side, then we follow the necessary protocols and do things the right way.
Cooperation benefits both parties. These are the special expectations of the people of the world. Well, the American people are certainly a great people, but so are the Chinese people.
Yang Jiechi (right), director of the Central Foreign Office for China, and Wang Yi (left), the Chinese foreign minister, arrive for a meeting with U.S. counterparts at an inaugural session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18. 2021
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
We will also discuss our deep concern about China’s actions, including Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cybernetads to the United States, economic coercion against our allies. Each of these actions threatens a rule-based order that maintains global stability.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan:
Secretary Blinken outlined many areas of concern, from economic and military coercion to attacks on core values, which we will discuss with you today and in the coming days.
… We have heard each of these concerns from around the world, from our allies and partners and the wider international community during the intensive consultations we have conducted over the last two months. Today, we will make it clear that our top priority on the part of the United States is to ensure that our approach to the world and our approach to China benefit the American people and protect the interests of our allies and partners.
We do not strive for conflict, but we welcome strong competition and will always stand up for our principles for our people and for our friends.
It is also important for all of us to come together to build a new kind of international relationship, including justice, fairness and mutual respect. And as for some regional issues, I think the problem is that the United States has exercised long jurisdiction and suppression and that too.
… The United States alone does not represent international public opinion, nor does the Western world. Whether judged by a population scale or a trend in the world, the Western world does not represent global public opinion. So we hope that when we talk about universal values or international public opinion by the United States, we hope that the American side will consider whether it feels calm to say those things because the United States does not represent the world. It represents only the government of the United States.
Secretary Blinken and I are proud of the story of America we can tell here, of a country that under President Biden has made great strides in controlling the pandemic, rescuing our economy, and reaffirming the strength and power of maintaining our democracies. We are especially proud of the work we have done to revitalize our alliances and partnerships, the foundations of our foreign policy.
And the United States has its own style, an American-style democracy. And China has a Chinese-style democracy. It is not only up to the American people, but also to the people of the world, to assess how the United States has done in advancing its own democracy. In the Chinese case, after decades of reform and opening up, we have come a long way in various fields.
… We believe it is important for the United States to change its own image and stop the progress of its own democracy in the rest of the world. Many people within the United States don’t actually have much confidence in United States democracy and have different views regarding the United States government in China.
A sign of our leadership, our engagement in the world are our alliances and our partnerships that are built on a completely voluntary basis. And that is something that President Biden is committed to re-empowering and strengthening. And there is another sign of our leadership here at home, and that is the constant striving to, as we say, create a more perfect alliance.
And that quest, by definition, acknowledges our imperfections, acknowledges that we are not perfect. We are wrong. We, we have reversals and we are going backwards. But what we have done throughout our history is to face these challenges, openly, publicly, transparently. Not trying to ignore them. Not trying to pretend they don’t exist. Not trying to sweep them under the rug. And sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s ugly. But every time we come out as a country stronger, better, more unique.
I remember well when President Biden was vice president and while we were visiting China … and Vice President Biden said at the time that it was never good to bet against America, and that remains true today.