The first face-to-face talks between the Biden administration and Beijing on March 18 got off to a testy start after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials lashed out at the United States over a range of alleged infractions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and a senior foreign policy official Yang Jiechi in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday for two days of talks between the two sides.
Blinken in his opening remarks said the Biden administration is united with its allies in pushing back against China’s increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad.
“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken said of China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and of cyberattacks on the United States and economic coercion against U.S. allies. “That’s why they’re not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.”
Sullivan amplified the criticism, saying China has undertaken an “assault on basic values.”
“We do not seek conflict but we welcome stiff competition,” he said.
Yang responded angrily, saying: “It was my bad. When I entered this room, I should have reminded the U.S. side of paying attention to its tone in our respective opening remarks, but I didn’t.” He then accused the U.S. side of speaking in a “condescending way.”
He then lashed out over what he said was the United States’ struggling democracy, poor treatment of minorities, and criticizing its foreign and trade policies.
“We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” Yang said.
“China will not accept unwarranted accusations from the U.S. side,” he added.
Wang also blasted the United States slapping sanctions on Chinese officials over Beijing’s rollback of democracy in Hong Kong a day before the talks, saying “I don’t think this is the way you should normally treat a guest!”
Blinken appeared to be annoyed by the tenor and length of the comments, which went on for more than 15 minutes. He said his impressions from speaking with world leaders and on his just-concluded trip to Japan and South Korea were entirely different from the Chinese position.
“I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged,” Blinken retorted. “I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.”
Afterward, the United States criticized the Chinese side for violating an agreed-upon two-minute time limit for opening statements. Yang ended up speaking for more than 15 minutes.
“The Chinese delegation … seems to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance,” the official said.
“Exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience,” the official added.
Gordon Chang, China expert and author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” said the CCP officials did not go to Alaska to talk with the Biden administration, but rather to dictate terms.
“The regime is off-the-charts arrogant at the moment,” Chang told The Epoch Times in an email.
He said that Chinese Leader Xi Jinping has been pushing the propaganda narrative that “the East is rising, and the West is declining” as he aims to expand his power domestically and abroad in the post-COVID world.
“To make significant concessions to America would undermine that appearance of national strength—and threaten Xi’s hold on power,” Chang said.
The CCP’s aggressive display before the talks was consistent with its abrasive “wolf warrior” diplomacy which has gained steam over the past year, James Jay Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at Washington-based think tank Heritage Foundation, told The Epoch Times.
He said the CCP in the past months has drawn a lot of global blowback over various actions including its coverup of the pandemic, crackdown in Hong Kong, as well as threats posed by Chinese technology, such as Huawei.
“Their response to that [blowback] is to try to bluster their way through it,” Carafano said.
“If the U.S. administration expected them to walk in the door and play nice, I think that was pretty naive,” he added.
Carafano said the Chinese diplomats’ remarks should help the Biden administration recognize that there is no room for cooperation with the CCP. Blinken had previously said that the administration’s relationship with China would be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.”
“The reality is on all the key issues, China and the U.S. are at very different places, and the healthiest, most constructive thing is to recognize that,” Carafano said.
The Biden administration is still formulating its China policy, but has broadly intimated it would continue former President Donald Trump’s tough-on-CCP stance. The Trump administration enacted an array of hardline actions targeting a variety of threats posed by the CCP, including sanctions on CCP officials over rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, designating the regime’s repression against Uyghurs a genocide, and a ban on U.S. investments in Chinese companies that aid the military.
Chang similarly criticized the Biden administration’s expressed willingness to cooperate with China where possible, such as on climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.
“Unfortunately, Biden has yet to realize that Communist China and the democratic United States cannot coexist over the long term,” Chang said.
“As much as we would like to think otherwise, China’s insecure, militant ruling group, fueled by an ideology that demands compliance from all, is innately incompatible with stability.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said the events in Anchorage show that “there does not need to be a ‘reset’ in U.S.-China relations,” as Beijing had hoped after Biden took office.
“Just as the Chinese delegation refused to comply with the agreed-upon rules of the meeting, Beijing refuses to comply with the rules-based international order,” Blackburn told The Epoch Times in an email.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told The Epoch Times that it was not surprising the meeting didn’t go well, noting that “Communist China is our enemy, plain and simple, and cannot be trusted.”
“The Biden Administration cannot appease General Secretary Xi—they must stay strong and be clear that the United States will not waver in its commitment to human rights and the protection of our national security.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) rejected the Chinese officials’ characterization of its genocidal campaign against Uyghurs and crackdown in Hong Kong as “internal matters”—a label repeatedly used by the CCP to fend off international condemnation of its widespread domestic rights abuses.
“Every single American should unite against Beijing’s tyrants,” Sasse said in a statement on Friday.
“Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan were right to say ‘it’s never good to bet against America’ and should continue to hold firm exposing Chairman Xi’s fraudulent lies.”
Frank Fang and The Associated Press contributed to this report.