The first high-level meeting between U.S.-Chinese officials under the new Biden administration got off to a chilly start on Thursday, with senior American diplomats accusing China of threatening world stability and Chinese officials alleging America is a human rights hypocrite due to its mistreatment of Black citizens.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, with top Chinese diplomats Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi. The two countries are at odds on many issues, from cyberattacks to trade; the relationship grew steadily worse under former President Donald Trump, who used tariffs to wage a trade war on Beijing.
The Biden administration has taken a somber approach toward Beijing, whose communist government they view as America’s top geopolitical rival. To date, the administration hasn’t moved to roll back the sanctions and tariffs imposed by Trump, but it has also said it wants to work with China on common challenges, like climate change.
“We do not seek conflict, but we welcome stiff competition, and we will always stand up for our principles, for our people, and for our friends,” Sullivan said at the top of the first meeting Thursday, according to Reuters.
Blinken said the U.S. will not stop holding China accountable for its actions in places like Hong Kong, where Beijing has cracked down on democracy; its economic coercion of other countries; or what U.S. officials allege is a genocidal campaign against Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
Beijing has often told the U.S. to butt out of such “internal matters.” Blinken, however, asserted that such Chinese actions “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters.”
Without that rules-based order, it would be a “far more violent and unstable world,” Blinken said, according to an account in CNN.
Yang, meanwhile, warned the United States to back off and accused it of hypocrisy. He said the United States uses its financial and military might to bully other countries. He also said America had its own long history of human rights problems, alleging that Blacks are being “slaughtered” in the United States.
Chinese officials had earlier tried to cast the Alaska event, which is to consist of at least three sessions over Thursday and Friday, as the potential new beginning of a longer strategic dialogue.
But the U.S. side has described the gathering as a “one-off” attempt to convey American frustrations with Beijing and get a sense of where Chinese leaders stand on various areas of dispute.
Blinken landed in Alaska after visiting U.S. allies in South Korea and Japan, where the relationship with China was a major topic.
U.S. officials, however, say they are still reviewing aspects of U.S. policy on China and intend to continue consulting with America’s allies and partners overseas.