U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan speaks as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center) looks on at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
Talks between the U.S. and China got off to a rough start on Thursday, with both sides chiding and reprimanding each other in an unusual public display of tensions.
The meeting in Anchorage, Alaska was the first high-level meeting between the two countries under the administration of President Joe Biden, and came after more than two years of rocky relations between the two countries.
What was initially meant to be a four-minute photo shoot ended up lasting more than an hour as both sides traded barbs on issues from U.S.-China relations to concerns from Washington’s allies. Reporters were told not to leave as both sides wanted to add their rebuttals.
Leading the U.S. delegation were Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan. Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, led the Chinese delegation.
Here are some excerpts and highlights from the meeting:
On U.S.-China relations
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken:
I said that the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be collaborative, words can be adversarial, where it must be. Our discussions here in Alaska, I suspect, will run the gamut. Our intent is to be direct about our concerns, direct about our priorities, with the goal of a more clear-eyed relationship between our countries moving forward.
… I have to tell you in my short time as secretary of State, I’ve spoken to, I think, nearly 100 counterparts from around the world. And I just made my first trip, as I noted, to Japan and South Korea. I have to tell you what I’m hearing is very different from what you described. I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners. I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi:
China certainly in the past has not and in the future will not accept the unwarranted accusations from the U.S. side. In the past several years, China’s legitimate rights and interests have come under outright suppression, plunging the China-U.S. relationship into a period of unprecedented difficulty.
… China urges the U.S. side to fully abandon the hegemony practice of willfully interfering in China’s internal affairs. This has been a longstanding issue and it should be changed. It is time for it to change.
Chinese Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Yang Jiechi
China and the United States are both major countries, and both show the important responsibilities. We must both contribute to the peace, stability and the development of the world, in areas such as Covid-19, restoring economic activities in the world and responding to climate change.
There are many things that we can do together and where our interests converge. So what we need to do is to abandon the Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game approach.
Yang Jiechi (right), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office for China and Wang Yi (left), China’s Foreign Minister arrive for a meeting with U.S. counterparts at the opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
On concerns of the U.S. and its allies
We’ll also discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyberattacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions, threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.
U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan:
Secretary of State Blinken laid out many of the areas of concerns from economic and military coercion to assault on basic values that we’ll discuss with you today and in the days ahead.
… We’ve heard each of these concerns from around the world, from our allies and partners and the broader international community during the intensive consultations we’ve undertaken these last two months. We’ll make clear today that our overriding priority on the United States side is to ensure that our approach in the world and our approach to China benefits the American people and protects the interests of our allies and partners.
We do not seek conflict but we welcome stiff competition and we will always stand up for our principles for our people and for our friends.
It’s also important for all of us to come together to build a new type of international relations, featuring fairness, justice, and mutual respect. And on some regional issues, I think the problem is that the United States has exercised long jurisdiction and suppression and over stretched.
… The United States itself does not represent international public opinion and neither does the Western world. Whether judged by population scale or the trend of the world, the Western world does not represent the global public opinion. So we hope that when talking about universal values or international public opinion on the part of the United States, we hope the U.S. side will think about whether it feels reassured saying those things because the U.S. does not represent the world. It only represents the government of the United States.
On values and democracy
Secretary Blinken and I are proud of the story about America we’re able to tell here, about a country that under President Biden’s leadership has made major strides to control the pandemic, to rescue our economy and to affirm the strength and staying power of our democracy. We’re particularly proud of the work that we’ve done to revitalize our alliances and partnerships, the foundation of our foreign policy.
And the United States has its style, United States-style democracy. And China has the Chinese-style democracy. It is not just up to the American people, but also the people of the world, to evaluate how the United States has done in advancing its own democracy. In China’s case, after decades of reform and opening up, we have come a long way in various fields.
… 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. Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States and they have various views regarding the government of the United States in China.
A hallmark of our leadership, of our engagement in the world is our alliances and our partnerships that had been built on a totally voluntary basis. And it is something that President Biden is committed to reinvigorating and strengthening. And there’s one more hallmark of our leadership here at home and that’s a constant quest to as we say, form a more perfect union.
And that quest, by definition, acknowledges our imperfections acknowledges that we’re not perfect. We make mistakes. We, we have reversals we take steps back. But what we’ve done throughout our history is to confront those challenges, openly, publicly, transparently. Not trying to ignore them. Not trying to pretend they don’t exist. Not trying to sweep them under the rug. And sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s ugly. But each and every time we’ve come out stronger, better, more united, as a country.
I recall well of when President Biden was vice president and we were visiting China … and Vice President Biden at the time said, it’s never a good bet to bet against America. And that remains true today.