US and China diplomats have publicly accused each other in the first physical meeting between the two countries since US President Biden came to power.
At the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, US Secretary of State Blinken began the meeting by expressing his “deep concern” about, among other things, China’s actions in Hong Kong, the country’s role in cyber attacks on the US and other things that, according to him, threaten “stability in the world”.
Chinese top diplomat Yang responded with a speech of more than ten minutes instead of the planned two minutes, in which he accused, among other things, America of forcing “its own version of democracy”, while the US itself is struggling with it, referring to the storming of the Capitol.
He also criticized what he saw as aggressive US foreign policy and the country’s treatment of minorities.
When Yang finished his speech, Blinken held the journalists in the room to respond. He said China’s neighbors are actually pleased that the US is more active on the international stage under Biden, referring to his recent trip to Japan and South Korea.
Subsequently, the Chinese wanted to react to Blinken again, which led to bickering about when the press should leave the room.
This is how the bickering went:
It was icy in Alaska, but it did not really become substantive, says NOS correspondent Sjoerd den Daas in the NOS Radio 1 News. “It was an exchange of frustrations and accusations on both sides.” For the Americans, it was mainly about the declining freedoms in Hong Kong and the human rights violations in Xinjiang.
China responded by stating that it concerns internal affairs, with which other countries have nothing to do. The US must do something about the situation in its own country, according to the Chinese diplomat. “He talked about racism and said black people are being murdered in America.”
The public altercation between the top diplomats was unusual, as such meetings are normally opened with a number of brief general remarks. The discussion then continues behind closed doors.
American diplomats reported shortly after the disagreement that China had violated protocol with the too-long opening statement. They accused China of “theater” that can be used as propaganda domestically.
China later accused the US of ignoring the protocol. Diplomats told state broadcaster CCTV that the Americans had been speaking for too long and opened the meeting “hostile”. “You don’t treat your guests like that,” said a diplomat.
Beforehand, there was tension around the meeting. On Wednesday, the US announced additional sanctions due to the Chinese stance towards Hong Kong.
Under the previous president Trump, the relationship between the two world powers has deteriorated considerably, partly due to the trade war. Biden appeared to be heading a somewhat milder course towards China than his predecessor, but promised to put more emphasis on issues such as human rights.
More talks between China and the US are scheduled in Anchorage later today.