US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R) speaks together with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R) in front of Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, and Wang Yi (L), China's foreigner minister at the opening session of the U.S.-China talks on March 18, 2021 at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
BEIJING – The first high-level meeting of U.S. and Chinese officials under President Joe Biden began with an exchange of insults at a press event prior to the meeting in Alaska on Thursday.
A scheduled four-minute photo session for officers to address reporters lasted an hour and 15 minutes due to a foamy exchange, according to NBC News. Both the Chinese and US sides kept calling reporters back in the room for comments.
Expectations for the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China, were already low.
In his opening address, Blinken said the US would discuss its "deep concerns about China's actions, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion on our allies".
"Each of these measures threatens the rules-based order that ensures global stability. Therefore, it is not just internal matters, and we feel obliged to address these issues here today," said Blinken. "I said that US relations with China will be competitive where it should be, cooperative where it can be, controversial where it has to be."
The United States does not have the qualifications to say it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.
Director of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs
Beijing views issues in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of its internal affairs, and officials at the meeting reiterated that China is firmly against foreign interference.
Yang said the US side "carefully orchestrated" the dialogue, according to an official NBC translation.
"I think we have thought too well about the United States, we thought the US side was going to follow the necessary diplomatic protocols," said Yang, adding, "the United States does not have the qualifications to say they are with China want to speak a position of strength. "
Yang said the US had to deal "the right way" with the Chinese side, reiterating Beijing's call for cooperation.
I hear deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we are reconnecting with our allies and partners. I also hear deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.
US Secretary of State
Under the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government consolidated its power at home and abroad. In the past year, Beijing pushed ahead with important trade deals with neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region and the European Union.
Chinese authorities have also highlighted their success in tackling the domestic coronavirus pandemic swiftly and their claim to lift all 1.4 billion people in the country out of poverty – something Yang pointed out during his meeting with US officials.
"We believe it is important for the United States to change its own image and not promote its own democracy in the rest of the world," said Yang.
China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment.
State broadcaster CCTV said the US "worked serious overtime" and "provoked disputes" in its opening speeches, according to a CNBC translation of the Mandarin language report.
Blinken came fresh from a trip to Japan and South Korea to Alaska. He told his Chinese colleagues that what he heard from other countries was very different from what Wang called hope for demonstrations of goodwill and righteousness between the US and China.
"I hear deep satisfaction that the US is back, that we are working with our allies and partners again," said Blinken. "I also hear deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking. And we will have an opportunity to discuss these when we get to work."
The first round of discussion between the two countries then ended after more than three hours. The two-day talks are due to be concluded on Friday.
Tensions between the US and China have escalated in recent years under former President Donald Trump, who used tariffs and sanctions to dispel ongoing complaints about China's lack of intellectual property protection, forced technology transfer requirements, and other unfair business practices. The dispute initially focused on trade before affecting technology, finance, and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Just as Biden was inaugurated, Beijing announced sanctions against 28 people, including several members of the Trump administration. Days before the first high-level meeting between the two countries, the Biden government announced sanctions against 24 Chinese officials.
Analysts had expected Biden to take a more restrained approach and work more closely with U.S. allies to put pressure on China.