Talks between the US and China’s top diplomats wrapped up in Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who attended the meetings with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, described the talks as “tough and direct.”
At the conclusion of the talks, both sides made it clear that the US and China remain far apart on major issues. Each side paid lip service to the idea of cooperation where it is possible, with the Chinese officials appearing more eager to find common ground than their US counterparts.
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi said the discussions were “direct, frank, and constructive.” The other Chinese official who attended the talks, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, hopes future interactions will be less confrontational and vowed that Beijing would protect its sovereignty.
“We hope the United States is not going to underestimate China’s determination to defend its territory,” Wang said. “China and the US should move toward each other while respecting each other’s core interests. On this common ground, China is willing to adopt an opening attitude to the United States.”
Blinken said he received a “defensive response” after raising issues the US has with China in his opening remarks on Thursday. “We certainly know and knew going in, that there are a number of areas where we are fundamentally at odds. And it was no surprise when we raised those issues directly, we got a defensive response.”
Blinken opened the talks by accusing China of threatening “the rules-based order” through actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and alleged cyberattacks in the US. Sullivan followed Blinken and accused Beijing of “economic and military coercion ” and “assaults on basic values.”
Yang responded sharply to the US officials and criticized Washington for both domestic and foreign policy issues. “The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries,” he said. “It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China.”
Speaking from Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian blamed the US for setting a hostile tone. “It was the US side that … provoked the dispute in the first place, so the two sides had a strong smell of gunpowder and drama from the beginning in the opening remarks. It was not the original intention of the Chinese side,” he said.
The US took several steps ahead of the talks that made it clear the meeting would be contentious. Blinken visited Japan and South Korea with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this week. While meeting with his Japanese and Korean counterparts, Blinken slammed Beijing, accusing China of using “coercion and aggression” in the region. On Wednesday, the US slapped sanctions on 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials.
Since Biden came into office, Chinese officials have called for better relations with Washington. But the Biden administration has had nothing but harsh words for Beijing, and US-China relations continue to decline.