'This is not the way to treat guests'

First meeting of US-China officials since Biden became president gets off to a rocky start in Anchorage  

'This is not the way to treat guests'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second right, is sen with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, right), facing Yang Jiechi, second left and speaking, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi, left, China's Foreign Minister at the opening session of talks in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021. Photo: Frederic Brown/ AFP/ pool.

(ATF) The first meeting between senior US and Chinese officials since Joe Biden became US President got off to a rocky start, with the world's top two powers rattling off a long list of issues on which they have differences as the meeting opened in Alaska.

China's actions "threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the opening of the two-day meeting in Anchorage.

The US side will "discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including Xinjiang," where Washington has accused Beijing of "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, Blinken told the Chinese Communist Party's top diplomatic official, Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

He said there would be dialogue on "Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyberattacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies."

Beijing hit back, with Yang Jiechi, seemingly upset at Blinken's robust initial remarks, saying: "Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang are all inalienable parts of Chinese territory. China firmly opposes US interference in China's internal affairs and will continue to make firm responses. 

"The United States does not have the right to speak condescendingly with China, and the Chinese do not like this. Dealing with China must be conducted on the basis of mutual respect. History will prove that it is oneself who suffers in the end if the neck is stuck to China."

Yang said that on the eve of the Chinese New Year, President Xi Jinping had a "successful call" with President Biden and agreed that the two sides should strengthen communication, manage differences, and expand cooperation.

"The United States has American-style democracy, and China has Chinese-style democracy. China adheres to the path of peaceful development, and makes unremitting efforts for international and regional peace and development, and for upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It is not like the United States that uses force at every turn to cause turmoil and unrest in the world. There are many problems in human rights and other aspects in the United States. What the United States should do is to change its image and manage its own affairs, instead of failing to solve its own problems, transferring contradictions to the world, diverting attention, and not making irresponsible remarks about China's human rights and democracy." 

Yang said China and the United States were big countries that share many common interests in fighting the epidemic, resuming work and production, and tackling climate change. 

Tensions still high

Tensions between Washington and Beijing remain high after relations were pitched into turmoil during Donald Trump's presidency, which saw a damaging trade war and spats over everything from defense to tech and rights in Hong Kong.

Anchorage was considered a more neutral meeting ground than Washington or Beijing for the three-session talks due to finish on Friday morning. But expectations are limited on both sides and the tone set by the opening statement confirmed the depth of the divide between the rivals.

Their last meeting in June did nothing to help thaw frosty relations.

Biden has maintained a tough line on China, and Blinken has said it represents America's "biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century." Still, the Biden team has said it wants to engage diplomatically on the world stage, in a pivot from Trump's isolationist and ally-berating stance.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, sitting beside Blinken, said that the United States didn't want "conflict," but "we welcome stiff competition."

But Yang called on him to "abandon the Cold War mentality," saying Beijing wanted "no confrontation, no conflict."

"The vast majority of countries in the world don't recognise US values as global values," he said, according to a readout in Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

'Unprecedented difficulties'

Meanwhile, Wang Yi denounced the latest US sanctions against senior Chinese officials for what Washington said was Beijing's "quashing of Hong Kong's freedoms", announced on the eve of the talks. He said Sino-US relations had encountered unprecedented difficulties in recent years, which had harmed the interests of people in both countries and harmed global stability and development. 

"China will never accept unwarranted accusations from the United States in the past, present, and future. At the same time, we ask the United States to completely abandon its hegemonic act of interfering in China's internal affairs. This old problem in the United States needs to be changed!

"This is not a normal way of hospitality. If the US wants to use this to enhance its so-called advantage over China, it is completely miscalculating, and it just exposes its inner weakness and powerlessness. This approach will not affect China's legitimate position in the slightest, nor will it shake the firm will of the Chinese people to safeguard sovereignty and dignity.

"The US has unreasonably attacked and blamed China’s domestic and foreign policies and provoked disputes. This is not the way to treat guests."

With reporting by AFP and Xinhua

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