'There is no way to strangle China': Talks get off to a bad start

‘Americans have little faith in US democracy’: China lashes Biden officials and they accuse Beijing of ‘grandstanding’ as supposed ‘peace talks’ in Alaska get off to a bad start

  • Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State, is in Alaska to meet Chinese counterparts
  • He is accompanied by Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser
  • It is the first time high-level Biden officials have met with a team from Beijing
  • The meeting got off to a remarkably contentious start Thursday
  • China said that U.S. democracy was teetering and told them to stop lecturing
  • The U.S. team responded with criticism of trade, human rights and COVID 

China has bluntly accused the United States of attempting to ‘strangle’ it, on the opening day of talks which descended into a remarkably hostile litigation of each others’ shortcomings.

The U.S. delegation, led by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, spoke out against China’s actions in Hong Kong and Tibet; its handling of the COVID pandemic; and their treatment of Uighurs. 

China, in return, told the U.S. their democratic system was on shaky ground, and accused them of attempting to rock established global order. 

The meeting, held in Alaska, was the first time the two sides met face-to-face since President Joe Biden took office.

Biden has been accused of being too close to China by Donald Trump, after his son Hunter did business in the country, but the U.S. team was determined to take a hardline. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from right, listens as national security adviser Jake Sullivan, right, speaks at the opening session of US-China talks in Alaska 

The two Americans met Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi, second from left, and China’s State Councilor Wang Yi, left, at the opening session on Thursday

In unusually pointed public remarks for a staid diplomatic meeting, Blinken and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi took aim at each other’s country’s policies at the start of the two days of talks. 

The contentious tone of their public comments suggested the private discussions would be even more rocky.

Joe Biden, seen on Thursday, set out determined to confront China on human rights, COVID, trade and other issues

The meetings in Anchorage were a new test in increasingly troubled relations between the two countries, which are at odds over a range of issues from trade to human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong and China´s western Xinjiang region, as well as over Taiwan, China´s assertiveness in the South China Sea and the coronavirus pandemic.

Blinken said the Biden administration is united with its allies in pushing back against China’s increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad. 

Yang then unloaded a list of Chinese complaints about the U.S. and accused Washington of hypocrisy for criticizing Beijing on human rights and other issues.

‘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 cyber attacks 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.’

National security adviser Jake Sullivan amplified the criticism, saying China has undertaken an ‘assault on basic values.’

The talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska got off to a remarkably bad start

‘We do not seek conflict but we welcome stiff competition,’ he said.

Yang responded angrily by demanding the U.S. stop pushing its own version of democracy at a time when the United States itself has been roiled by domestic discontent. 

He also accused the U.S. of failing to deal with its own human rights problems and took issue with what he said was ‘condescension’ from Blinken, Sullivan and other U.S. officials.

‘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,’ he said. 

‘Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.

‘China will not accept unwarranted accusations from the U.S. side,’ he said, adding that recent developments had plunged relations ‘into a period of unprecedented difficulty’ that ‘has damaged the interests of our two peoples.’

‘There is no way to strangle China,’ he said.

Foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi accused the U.S. of wanting to ‘strangle’ China

Chinese officials berated their U.S. counterparts for more than 15 minutes on Thursday

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.’

Underscoring the animosity, the State Department blasted the Chinese delegation for violating an agreed upon two-minute time limit for opening statements and suggested it ‘seem(ed) to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance.’

‘America’s approach will be undergirded by confidence in our dealing with Beijing – which we are doing from a position of strength – even as we have the humility to know that we are a country eternally striving to become a more perfect union,’ it said.

Blinken and Sullivan (far right) looked unimpressed as the Chinese laid into them 

U.S.-China ties have been torn for years, and the Biden administration has yet to signal whether it´s ready or willing to back away from the hardline stances taken under Donald Trump.

Just a day before the meeting, Blinken had announced new sanctions over Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong. 

In response, China stepped up its rhetoric opposing U.S. interference in domestic affairs and complained directly about it.

‘Is this a decision made by the United States to try to gain some advantage in dealing with China?’ State Councilor Wang Yi asked. 

‘Certainly this is miscalculated and only reflects the vulnerability and weakness inside the United States and it will not shake China’s position or resolve on those issues.’

Trump had taken pride in forging what he saw as a strong relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. 

But the relationship disintegrated after the coronavirus pandemic spread from the Wuhan province across the globe and unleashed a public health and economic disaster.

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