The United States and China clashed during the first high-level, in-person meeting of the Biden administration held in Anchorage, Alaska on Thursday with officials from both sides trading barbs at each other.
The meeting kicked off with senior American diplomats accusing China of threatening world stability and Chinese officials saying the US is a human rights hypocrite because of its mistreatment of Black citizens.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made their opening statements, filled with unusually blunt words.
“We will ... discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies,” Blinken said.
“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” he added.
Yang, for his turn, responded with a 15-minute speech in Chinese while the American side waited for translation, criticizing the US over a range of issues.
“The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries,” Yang said. “It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China.”
He went on to say that the US “does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.”
“The US side was not even qualified to say such things, even 20 years or 30 years back, because this is not the way to deal with the Chinese people.”
Ties between Washington and Beijing particularly soured under former US president Donald Trump, who clashed with China on trade, technology, and regional security, among other things.
President Joe Biden’s administration has generally backed the tougher approach to China initiated by Trump.
Biden has described China as Washington's "most serious competitor," saying the US would continue to confront what he has called China's "attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance."
Beijing has rejected those charges against itself and repeatedly said that the US must stop interfering in its internal affairs.
"For quite some time, the United States has been willfully interfering in other countries' internal affairs in the name of democracy and human rights," Wang said at a news conference last week.
In the meantime, Beijing has also publicly called for a reset of relations, and reportedly wants a summit to be held between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping next month if the talks produce fruitful results.
So far, the Biden the administration has not moved to lift the sanctions and tariffs imposed by Trump against China, but, at the same time, has said it wants to work with Beijing on common challenges, like climate change.
"We do not seek conflict, but we welcome stiff competition, and we will always stand up for our principles, for our people, and for our friends," Sullivan said during the meeting on Thursday.
Blinken joined the talks straight from a trip to Japan and South Korea, where he held meetings whose major topic was the relationship with China.
In Tokyo, he accused China of using "coercion and aggression" in the region.
"We will push back if necessary when China uses coercion and aggression to get its way," Blinken said on Tuesday.