WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s top national security advisers opened their first face-to-face meeting with Chinese diplomats in Alaska Thursday with an unusually tense exchange that saw the global rivals spar on issues of human rights, cyber-attacks and trade policies.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, began the two-day talks with Yang Jiechi, foreign affairs director for China’s Communist Party, and State Councilor Wang Yi by expressing the Biden administration’s “deep concerns” about China’s actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States as well as trade coercion against U.S. allies.
“Each of these actions threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken said. “That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.”
“I hear deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re re-engaged,” Blinken fired back. “I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.”
The high-stakes showdown was off to a rocky start as the two delegations bickered in an extended back-and-forth that included when members of media should be ushered out of the room.
Following the meeting, the State Department slammed the Chinese officials for violating an agreed-upon two-minute opening statement and accused them of “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 perfect union,” the State Department said, adding that it would continue with the meetings as planned.
Among the topics U.S. officials plan to raise:
- China’s mass internment of Uyghur Muslims.
- Its crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong.
- Its escalating aggression toward Taiwan and its trade coercion against Australia.