Chinese Officials Open Talks Claiming U.S. Forfeited Authority to Champion Democracy

Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office for China, addresses the U.S. delegation in Anchorage, Alaska, March 18, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/Reuters)

U.S. and Chinese officials exchanged tense criticisms of each other’s countries on Thursday, as officials from both countries met in-person for the first time since President Joe Biden took office.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National security adviser Jake Sullivan clashed with the Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief, Yang Jiechi as two days of talks in Alaska got underway on Thursday.

While Blinken said the Biden administration had joined with its allies to combat China’s increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad, Yang accused the U.S. of being hypocritical in its critique of Beijing on human rights and other issues.

The meeting comes amid rising tensions between the two countries over a number of issues: trade, human rights, the coronavirus pandemic, and China’s actions in the South China Sea. 

Blinken said China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as cyberattacks on the U.S. and economic coercion against U.S. allies all “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”

 “That’s why they’re not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” he said.

Sullivan similarly said China has perpetrated an “assault on basic values.”

“We do not seek conflict but we welcome stiff competition,” he said.

Yang accused Blinken, Sullivan and other U.S. officials of “condescension” and hypocrisy, saying the U.S. has not dealt with its own human rights issues and domestic discontent.

“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.

He noted that recent events had sparked “a period of unprecedented difficulty” in the countries’ relations and that “has damaged the interests of our two peoples.”

“There is no way to strangle China,” he said.

Blinken hit back, saying after speaking with world leaders on his trip to Japan and South Korea he had come away with the opposite impression of how the world views the U.S.

“I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged,” Blinken said. “I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.”

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