Top U.S., China diplomats have public spat as Alaska summit opens

Top diplomats from the US and China had a public explosion in front of reporters Thursday as the two world powers met in Alaska to discuss politics and try to restore ties that have become increasingly strained in recent years.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was accompanied in Anchorage by Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden, to meet her Chinese counterpart, State Councilor Wang Yi and Chinese Communist Party Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, for two talks on her face Meeting to meet.

The atmosphere was expected to be tense as the US imposed sanctions on China days before for Beijing cracking down on political freedoms in Hong Kong. The subsequent controversial exchange in front of the camera was, however, a clear departure from the slight courtesies that were traditionally offered before diplomatic discussions.

Blinken opened his remarks with the statement that Beijing must return to a rule-based system. Insulting China for violating international norms through their crackdown on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, cyber attacks against the US and “economic coercion”.

“Each of these measures threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” said Blinken. “Our intention is to speak directly about our concerns and priorities with the aim of creating a clearer relationship between our countries that are moving.” Forward.”

Sullivan added, “We are not looking for conflict, but we welcome fierce competition and we will always stand up for our principles for our people and for our friends.”

China’s Yang Jiechi responded with a long lecture against the US that lasted so long that the subsequent translation took 17 minutes. According to a senior official, it had been agreed that each side would speak for two minutes on a photo opportunity before the session began.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 2nd R, along with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (right) speaks in front of Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, and Wang Yi (left), China’s foreign minister at the opening session of the U.S.-China talks on March 18, 2021 at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images

“China is firmly against US interference in China’s internal affairs. We have expressed our strong opposition to such interference and we will take decisive action against human rights. We hope the United States will improve human rights,” he said Referring to the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, “China has made steady progress on human rights.”

He added, “And the United States has a United States-style democracy. And China has a Chinese-style democracy. It is not only up to the American people, but also the people of the world to judge how the United States is Have restrained After decades of reform and opening up, we have come a long way in various areas to promote our own democracy in China’s case. “

Blinken then signaled that the news cameras should remain so that he could refute the criticism of US democracy and take note of the lengthy remarks made by Chinese officials. Sullivan followed suit. Blinken then tried to fire the press pool, but Chinese officials insisted that they be given the opportunity to offer their own second round.

That spit turned a four-minute photo op into a diplomatic spit that lasted over an hour.

A US official told NBC News after the event that the Chinese delegation had violated mutually agreed protocol.

“We have continued our planned presentation and know that exaggerated diplomatic presentations often target a domestic audience. We still have a lot to do, ”said the officer. “We will use the remaining hours to privately sketch the same messages for the Chinese delegation that we have consistently conveyed to the public. The Chinese delegation, on the other hand, appears to have arrived with the intention of making a name for itself and focusing on public plays and drama about substance. “

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