‘Fundamentally at odds’: China, U.S. retreat to their corners after Alaska talks

“There are a number of areas in which we are fundamentally at odds,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as the last meeting ended Friday, “including China’s actions in Xinjiang regarding Hong Kong, Tibet, increasingly Taiwan, as well as actions it is taking in cyberspace. And it’s no surprise that when we addressed these issues clearly and directly, we received a defensive response. ”

Russian Foreign Minister at the beginning of next week Sergey Lavrov will visit China, with the United States certainly on the agenda. The Biden government’s relations with both countries are in decline. Biden recently agreed to this The Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is a “murderer”. while Putin responded by threatening Biden with “good health”.

While Lavrov is in China, Blinken will travel to Brussels, where he will attend a NATO meeting and discuss China with European allies. Biden’s government seeks to bring together a coalition of countries to hold their own on fronts against Beijing that range from cyber to human rights to trade practices.

According to a Chinese analyst who is in contact with representatives of the Biden government, the Biden government plans to take action in the next few weeks to punish China for a genocide campaign against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

The measures are likely to include new economic sanctions and could also include some coordinated action with countries in Europe that are also alarmed by the Xinjiang crisis.

“It will likely be a strained relationship for a generation,” said Matt Kroenig, a former Pentagon official who now serves as the deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. “And maybe there are areas for cooperation on issues like climate change or arms control. But overall, the relationship will get worse before it improves. “

“Strength and Action”

In Washington, the Biden administration’s tough line towards China is well received. Biden is eager to find ways to work with Republicans on China affairs, and bipartisan harmonies are likely to show up more frequently in the months ahead.

After their meetings with Chinese officials Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi ended on Friday, Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Senators from Alaska, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, who are both Republicans.

A package of laws that could offer a chance to show a united front is being pulled together by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It is expected to include previous legislative work Schumer did with Indiana GOP Senator Todd Young. The emerging packageSome watchers are hoping to speak as early as April and are heavily focused on investing in science and technology to outperform the Chinese.

The US and its partners can take other steps that are more covert but deeply momentous.

For example, earlier this week The US has issued subpoenas against several Chinese companies According to the Department of Commerce, “they provide information and communications technology and services in the United States.” The move signaled a possible crackdown on Chinese companies that could pose a risk the government sees as a national security risk to America.

One thing that probably won’t happen anytime soon? A face-to-face meeting between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, under which the Chinese government has taken an increasingly repressive and authoritarian turn.

Biden government officials insist they want to find ways to work with China on issues of common concern such as climate change and fighting pandemics. So it is likely that the two sides will continue to get involved at different levels, even if done over phone calls and on the sidelines of other forums.

“We will continue to work with China in the future,” said Sullivan as the meeting ended on Friday.

A State Department spokesman did not immediately answer questions about possible future US action.

The politics of pressure

The Biden administration describes China, like the Trump administration before, as America’s greatest geopolitical rival. In Washington, this feeling is widespread among members of both political parties.

A non-partisan group of lawmakers presented themselves on Friday a resolution blowing up the Chinese government for undermining democracy in Hong Kong. The resolution also called on the Biden government to use sanctions and other instruments to punish Chinese officials for the act.

Some US lawmakers also weighed sharply against Beijing during the Alaska meeting.

“I have a lot of political disagreements with the Biden government, but every single American should unite against Beijing’s tyrants,” said Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Who praised Blinken and Sullivan for telling their Chinese colleagues about it not to bet against the United States.

The Chinese Communist Party is a weak and tenacious regime, said Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Republican chief on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Strength and action are the only things the CCP understands,” McCaul said in a statement.

The meeting on Thursday in Anchorage began with a public part in which both sides held a pointed verbal tournament.

Blinken told Chinese officials that the US would continue to discuss Beijing’s practices in Hong Kong and against Uighur Muslims, as well as other points of contention. Despite China’s insistence that these are internal affairs, they threaten the rules-based international order, Blinken said, making it a fair game for American comment and action.

Yang returned that the United States is an international bully and that it has its own poor human rights record, including mistreating black Americans. Wang said the Chinese people are “outraged” by the US decision earlier this week to impose a series of sanctions on Chinese officials allegedly involved in the crackdown on Hong Kong.

Usually these opening speeches only last a few minutes, but the US side decided to respond to the Chinese allegations and then Chinese officials took a second opportunity to present their grievances and pull out the public part.

A senior Biden government official later accused the Chinese side of being “great” while the Chinese State Department said that “the hearts of its diplomats were chilled by the biting cold as they reached Anchorage and received by their American host.”

The actual closed part of the first session was “substantive, serious and direct,” said the chief administrative officer. “In fact, the discussion went way beyond the two hours we had planned. We used the meeting as planned to set out our interests and priorities, and we heard the same thing from our Chinese colleagues. “

It is difficult to say how much the public to-and-fro was theater for each country’s domestic audience compared to news to one another.

However, Chinese diplomats have been more aggressive on the global front in recent years, often using harsh language that analysts say is primarily intended to bolster national sentiment in China. These diplomats were called “wolf warriors”.

While the Wolf Warriors’ main goal is to strengthen Chinese nationalism, the harsh rhetoric has angered foreign officials.

China “obviously believes it can afford to be more assertive until it becomes combative,” said a former senior US security official. “It probably plays well in China, but it also helps cement a growing sense that the Communist Party is China’s No. 1 enemy.”

Chinese officials have tried to view this week’s discussions as the beginning of a series of talks – a so-called “strategic dialogue”. But the Biden government denied it, claiming it was a “one-time” gathering.

The aim is to give both sides the opportunity to express their differences and discuss where they can work together.

“Beijing has spoken about its desire to change the tone of the relationship and of course we will be looking at actions, not words, on this front,” a senior government official told reporters earlier this week.

“And of course we come to these discussions with very clear eyes [China’s] pretty bad track record in keeping its promises. “

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