Tough talks between the US and China signal difficult start in bilateral relations


US and Chinese officials on Friday concluded what Washington called "tough and direct" talks in Alaska, which exposed the depth of tensions between the world's two largest economies at the start of Joe Biden's administration.

The two days of meetings, the first high-level in-person conversations since Biden took office, ended after an unusual and fiery start on Thursday, when the parties publicly criticized each other's policies in front of television cameras.

The talks did not appear to yield diplomatic breakthroughs, as expected, but the bitter rivalry on display suggested the two countries had little in common to restore relations that have sunk to the lowest level in decades.

The run-up to the discussions in Anchorage, which followed visits by US officials to allies Japan and South Korea, was marked by a series of moves from Washington that showed it was taking a firm stance, as well as frank speech. from Beijing, warning the United States not to have any illusions about a compromise.

"We expected to have tough and direct conversations on a wide range of topics, and that's exactly what we had," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters moments after the Chinese delegation left the conference room. hotel meetings.

Members of the Chinese delegation left the hotel without speaking to reporters, but Beijing's top diplomat Yang Jiechi later told his country'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.

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

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

"In economics, commerce and technology, we told our counterparts that we are reviewing these issues in close consultation with Congress , with our allies and partners, and we will advance them in a way that fully protects and promotes the interests of our workers and our companies, "Blinken said.

Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi, who joined the meetings, was quoted on state television as saying that they had told the US side that China's sovereignty was a matter of principle and they should not underestimate Beijing's determination to defend it.

After Blinken's opening remarks on Thursday about China's challenge to a rules-based international order, Yang lashed out with a lengthy speech criticizing America's democracy and trade and foreign policies.

The United States accused China of "grandstanding" for its national audience, with both sides suggesting that the other had broken diplomatic protocol.

The reprimands unfolded in front of reporters, but a senior Washington official told reporters that as soon as the media left the room, the two sides "immediately got down to business" and had substantive talks.