If diplomatic relations between the world’s two largest economies were bad with Donald Trump, the first high-level meeting between the two countries since Joe Biden took office was anything but auspicious. Even before the talks, the two sides exchanged harsh and non-diplomatic accusations.
At the first two-day meeting between high-level representatives of both parties under the Biden administration, held in Alaska, which ends today, Washington and Beijing had a tough exchange of accusations that was anything but diplomatic.
According to the report made by the American press, what was expected to be no more than an initial period of four minutes for the usual photographs, usually marked by circumstantial words for a journalist to see, ended up going on for more than an hour.
During those long minutes, the accusations followed and it seemed clear that the two sides insisted on having the last word, read the last attack, first of all by the order given to the journalists to remain in the room.
With regard to the dispute itself, Jake Sullivan, an American national security adviser, began by ensuring that the United States is not looking for a conflict with China, guaranteed to be prepared for “tough competition” with Beijing, and ensured that Washington will always uphold the principles it upholds and its allies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Beijing of undermining global stability, in particular, due to its activities in the Hong Kong administrative region, but also in relation to the autonomous territory of Xinjiang and in relation to Taiwan.
“Each of these actions threatens the rule-based order that maintains global stability,” argued the head of American diplomacy, ensuring that the United States will not fail to hold Beijing accountable for its actions, reiterating the example of anti-democratic actions in Hong Kong, economic blackmail to countries within its regional and influence sphere or what the American side considers to be promoting genocide against the Muslim minority in Xinjiang (Uighurs).
In addition to Blinken and Sullivan, the Chinese side has two diplomats and senior officials from the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi, and Wang Yi. The first, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2007 and 2013, maintained the Chinese rhetoric that the United States should not meddle in China’s domestic life and that, in doing so, it is contributing to destabilize the Asian continent.
Yang Jiechi even accused Washington of hypocrisy for using its economic and military might to repress other countries and pointed the finger at the problems that the United States has faced for decades in terms of human rights, exemplifying with last year’s clashes over the Black movement. Lives Matter to claim that there are black people to be “slaughtered”. The diplomat also argued that even the Americans themselves are suspicious of their democracy and democratic institutions today.
Note that Joe Biden has already recognized China as the great competitor of the USA and its main geopolitical rival – there are indicators that point to the Chinese economy supplanting the American one already during the 2030s.
Powers of back turned
The two countries account for several disagreements, from the trade dispute initiated by the Trump administration, which remains and that Biden has already guaranteed that he will not be dropped with a kiss (the tariffs applied by Trump remain standing), to the cyberattacks and through the actions militarism developed by Beijing in the South China Sea, always with a response via Washington’s naval maneuvers.
In any case, Joe Biden assured during the presidential campaign that he intended to put the bilateral relationship with Beijing back on the traditional lines, not neglecting the Chinese threat in several areas, exchanging the more aggressive tone used by Trump for a more dialogical and conciliatory approach. For the example now known, you will still have to smooth these edges a lot.
As the Bloomberg agency said in the lobby of the Alaskan summit, Beijing intended, if these talks went well, to hold a summit between the presidents of the two countries, Biden and Xi Jinping, in April. For now, the signs indicate that there will be no summit next month, but in diplomatic chess, there are always surprises.