First high-level meeting of U.S. and Chinese officials turned into a series of accusation
The first high-level talks between the Chinese and President Joe Biden’s administration, in Anchorage, Alaska, ended soon after noon local time, with Beijing later releasing a statement saying the two nations would step up cooperation on climate change by establishing a “joint working group”.
Chinese officials accused the US of inciting countries “to attack China”, while the US said China had “arrived intent on grandstanding”.
Relations between the two superpowers are at their most strained for years.
The US pledged to raise contentious issues such as Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The ill-tempered talks in Anchorage involved Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the US side, facing off with China’s most senior foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, and foreign minister Wang Yi.
However, a US official said the subsequent talks behind closed doors had been “substantive, serious and direct” and ran over the planned two hours.
In a blunt opening statement before the talks in private, Mr Blinken said the US would “discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies”.
“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” he said.
In response, Mr Yang accused Washington of using its military might and financial supremacy to suppress other countries.
“It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China,” he added.
Mr Yang said human rights in the US were at a low point, with black Americans being “slaughtered”.
Mr Sullivan hit back, saying Washington did not seek a conflict with China, but added: “We will always stand up for our principles for our people, and for our friends.”
The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, describes China as America’s top geopolitical rival. In Washington, that feeling is widely shared among members of both political parties.
On Friday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a resolution blasting the Chinese government for its evisceration of democracy in Hong Kong. The resolution also calls on the Biden administration to use sanctions and other tools to punish Chinese officials for the crackdown.
Some U.S. lawmakers also weighed in with sharp barbs against Beijing as the meeting in Alaska was going on.