The crossed accusations mark the first difficult meeting between the United States and China during the Biden era

The two-day summit in Alaska exposed the profound differences between Washington and Beijing, ranging from trade to human rights. In an unusual scenario, criticism was announced from both parties and anticipated a difficult journey for relationships that reached an all-time low.

The Alaska summit highlighted the deep differences between the United States and China, the first to have arisen since Joe Biden’s inauguration in the White House. The two delegations have done their part to show their discontent in front of the cameras and the eyes of the world, who is watching the development of problematic relations between the two major world powers.

The extraordinary display of differences, aloud, was not accidental, but rather the result of a launch that seemed deliberate: both Washington and Beijing have laid the foundations of a strong bond facing the challenge of achieving future points of convergence between actors. Who bicker on nearly every side and do not intend to forfeit an inch in front of their competitor.

Cold Anchorage was presented as a neutral city in this first meeting between the United States and China, but it could not hide the deep polarization of these two countries, which covers a wide range of topics: from trade to respect for human rights, going through cybersecurity and the attitude towards Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan and change the climate.

For the Biden administration, this was the first approach while defining its stance against China in aspects such as trade tariffs and the tough line adopted by Donald Trump, while strong public rhetoric won it the support of some Republicans.

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Whereas for the Xi Jinping government, with a delegation more experienced in confrontation with the United States, that meant the possibility of mapping out potential trends after Trump’s unconventional diplomacy and certifying that it did not intend to adjust its policy in various aspects.

Washington questioned the Chinese “tyranny”. Beijing condemns the US “interference”

The terrain before this first meeting of the delegations was already slippery. In a telephone conversation, Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping disagreed on a variety of issues, regardless of the fact that the Chinese president deemed the confrontation a “disaster” for both countries.

Then, one day before the meetings, the State Department announced new sanctions against Beijing for its suppression of democratic movements in Hong Kong.

That is why it is not surprising that much of the US criticism of China during the meetings – at least the public part of them – referred to the actions of Beijing, which Washington considers authoritarian.

The North American delegation has raised accusations of human rights violations by China in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, and denounced Beijing’s alleged pressure on Taiwan and holding the Asian country responsible for the cyber attacks.

“Each of these actions threatens the rules-based system that maintains global stability. That is why they are not just domestic matters, and that is why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” said the US Secretary of State. Anthony Blinken during the discussion.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (right), with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (left), during the opening session of the US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, USA.  March 18, 2021.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (right), with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (left), during the opening session of the US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. March 18, 2021. © Frederick J. Brown / Paul Via Reuters

A position articulated by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who accused China of launching an “attack on fundamental values.”

For its part, the Chinese delegation doubted that the United States promoted what it considers its own version of democracy, at a time when that country is facing its internal discontent, and accused it in addition to not addressing its human rights problems.

He also criticized the American “interference” in the internal affairs of his country. The head of foreign affairs of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi said that Beijing, “You will protect our sovereignty Patriotism, security and our interests. ” “We hope the United States will not underestimate China’s determination to protect its territory, protect its people and defend its just interests,” he said.

“Big talk” on the one hand, and “the smell of gunpowder” on the other: dialectical fighting pushed to the limits

Tensions in the exchanges reached a climax, near excessive hostility.

For example, the Foreign Ministry criticized the Chinese delegation for exceeding the deadline for opening remarks and suggested that Beijing “is intended to be flowery, focusing on public theater and drama in substance.”

For his part, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the US delegates, after the meetings, of provoking a “serious response” from Chinese officials to the “baseless attacks.”

The Chinese delegation led by Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs office, and Wang Yi, state councilor and Chinese foreign minister, speaks at the opening session of the US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18, 2021.
The Chinese delegation led by Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs office, and Wang Yi, state councilor and Chinese foreign minister, speaks at the opening session of the US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18, 2021. © Frederick J. Brown / Paul Via Reuters

The spokesman considered that the American side “was the one who sparked the dispute in the first place,” which dyed the meeting “the strong smell of gunpowder and drama from the beginning.” “This was not the original intention of the Chinese side,” Zhao said.

Despite the differences, the parties were satisfied with the results

Wrapping up the meetings, Anthony Blinken said he was not surprised by what he called the “defensive response” from China to questions raised on a wide range of issues.

“We wanted to share with them the important concerns that we had about the series of actions China has taken and the behaviors they are showing, and the concerns that our allies and partners share. And we did. We also wanted to define our policies and priorities and the worldview is very clear. And we did that too,” explained Minister External in detail.

“In economics, trade and technology, our counterparts have told us that we are reviewing these issues in close consultation with Congress, with our allies and partners, and we will work to develop them in a way that fully protects and advances the interests of our workers and companies.” Blinken added.

Meanwhile, Jake Sullivan added, “We expected to have difficult, direct conversations on a wide range of topics, and that’s exactly what we have.”

For his part, a senior US official told reporters that as soon as the media left the room, “the two sides immediately got into action” and held substantive talks.

Likewise, Yang Jiechi expressed himself, who, in statements to the Chinese CGTN series, considered the dialogues constructive and useful even though “there are still differences.”

The first pulse between Washington and Beijing left few conclusions and many questions about how relations would develop over the next four years under the Biden administration. For now, Alaska is a plate for both parties to move their first pieces.

With Reuters and AP

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