Top US and Chinese officials have concluded two days of contentious talks in Alaska which laid bare the depth of tensions between the world’s two largest economies at the outset of the Biden administration.
The two days of meetings, the first high-level in-person talks since President Joe Biden took office, wrapped up after a rare and fiery kickoff on Thursday when the two sides publicly skewered each other’s policies in front of TV cameras.
The talks appeared to yield no diplomatic breakthroughs – as expected – but the bitter rivalry on display suggested the two countries had little common ground to reset relations that have sunk to the lowest level in decades.
“We expected to have tough and direct talks on a wide range of issues, and that’s exactly what we had,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters moments after the Chinese delegation left the hotel meeting room.
Members of China’s delegation left the hotel without speaking to reporters, but China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi later told China’s CGTN television network that the discussions had been constructive and beneficial, “but of course, there are still differences.”
“China will firmly safeguard national sovereignty, security and development,” Yang said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was not surprised that the United States got a “defensive response” from China after it raised allegations of Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong as well as cyberattacks and pressure on Taiwan.
But Blinken said the two sides also had intersecting interests on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and climate change, and that the United States had accomplished during the meetings what it had come to do.
While much of Biden’s China policy is still being formulated, including how to handle the tariffs on Chinese goods implemented by his predecessor Donald Trump, his administration has so far placed a stronger emphasis on democratic values and allegations of human rights abuses by China.