US, United States, China, Joe Biden

‘Tough’ US-China talks signal rocky start to relations under Biden

Story by Reuters

U.S. and Chinese officials concluded on Friday (March 20) what Washington called “tough and direct” talks in Alaska, which laid bare the depth of tensions between the world’s two largest economies at the outset of the Biden administration.

The two days of meetings, the first high-level in-person talks since President Joe Biden took office, wrapped up after a rare and fiery kickoff on Thursday when the two sides publicly skewered each others’ policies in front of TV cameras.

The talks appeared to yield no diplomatic breakthroughs – as expected – but the bitter rivalry on display suggested the two countries had little common ground to reset relations that have sunk to the lowest level in decades.

The run-up to the discussions in Anchorage, which followed visits by U.S. officials to allies Japan and South Korea, was marked by a flurry of moves by Washington that showed it was taking a firm stance, as well as by blunt talk from Beijing warning the United States to discard illusions that it would compromise.

“We expected to have tough and direct talks on a wide range of issues, and that’s exactly what we had,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters moments after the Chinese delegation left the hotel meeting room.

Members of China’s delegation left the hotel without speaking to reporters, but China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi later told China’s CGTN television network that the discussions had been constructive and beneficial, “but of course, there are still differences.”

“China will firmly safeguard national sovereignty, security and development,” Yang said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was not surprised that the United States got a “defensive response” from China after it raised allegations of Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong as well as cyberattacks and pressure on Taiwan.

But Blinken said the two sides also had intersecting interests on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and climate change, and that the United States had accomplished during the meetings what it had come to do.

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