Top US, Chinese diplomats clash publicly at first in-person talks under Biden presidency
US SECRETARY of State Tony Blinken has bluntly told China’s top diplomats that Beijing’s actions have threatened the rules-based order that maintains global stability, as the two sides exchanged sharp rebukes in public during their first in-person high-level meeting since President Joe Biden took office.
The talks involved Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the US side, facing off with China’s top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
In his opening remarks to the much-anticipated US-China talks being held in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday, Blinken said that the issues to be raised by his delegation are relevant not only to the two countries but to others across the region and indeed around the world.
The Biden administration, Blinken asserted, is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the United States and to strengthen the rules-based international order. “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,” Blinken said.
At the first-ever meeting last week, the Quad leaders had said that they were committed to promoting a free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
Blinken said, the meeting was an opportunity to discuss key priorities. The relations between the US and China are at an all-time low. The two countries are currently engaged in a bitter confrontation over various issues, including trade, Beijing’s aggressive military moves in the disputed South China Sea and human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang region.
“Each of these actions threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken said. “Our discussions here in Alaska, I suspect, will run the gamut. Our intent is to be direct about our concerns, direct about our priorities, with the goal of a more clear-eyed relationship between our countries moving forward,” Blinken said.
Yang, Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs of the ruling Communist Party of China, fought back by asserting that China does not follow what is advocated by a small number of countries of the so-called “rules-based” international order.
“What China and the international community follow or uphold is the United Nations-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law, not what is advocated by a small number of countries of the so-called “rules-based” international order,” he said, sparring in a highly unusual extended back-and-forth in front of cameras. He said that China believes that it is important for the US to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world.
Sullivan also hit back, saying the US did not seek a conflict with China, but added: “We will always stand up for our principles for our people, and for our friends.”
Foreign minister Wang said that China certainly in the past has not and in the future will not accept the unwarranted accusations from the US side.
“China urges the US side to fully abandon the hegemonic practice of wilfully interfering in China’s internal affairs. This has been a long-standing issue and it should be changed. It is time for it to change,” Wang said.