The Biden administration’s first senior-level meeting with China quickly deteriorated into finger-pointing between Chinese and American officials, according to reporters present at the talks.
Amid heightened U.S.-China tensions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with their Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Wang Yi and foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi, in Alaska on Thursday. The U.S. officials stopped in Anchorage to attend the talks on their way back from trips to South Korea and Japan.
In his opening remarks, Blinken reportedly criticized China for its treatment of Uyghur minorities, its cyber attacks against the U.S., and its tight grasp on Hong Kong.
According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs, Jiechi responded by saying that the U.S. is the “champion” of cyber attacks, that it has a “deeply rooted human rights problem”—including its history of killing Black people—and that the country doesn’t represent “global public opinion.”
CNN correspondent Kylie Atwood tweeted that, as camera crews were about to leave after opening remarks, Blinken asked them to stay because “he has more to add before they get down to work.”
The Alaska talks were to be a deciding factor on whether U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be meeting next month, according to earlier reporting by Bloomberg. The fiery exchange on Thursday may have put the prospects of that meeting into question.
In his testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Blinken said that “managing our relationship with China” was “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.”
The Biden administration has yet to roll back Trump-era sanctions imposed on China, and Sullivan told the top Chinese diplomats on Thursday that while the U.S. does “not seek conflict” with China, “we welcome stiff competition, and we will always stand up for our principles, for our people, and for our friends,” according to Reuters.