The Alaska dispute between US and Chinese language officers is an unfavorable begin to a brand new period in relations
When it first became known that top officials from the US and China would meet in Alaska this week, there was a certain level of optimism that could mark the beginning of a new relationship between the two countries after a near-complete collapse in the final of the year the tenure of President Donald Trump.
Even Cui may have been surprised at what bitter start these talks got off to. After US Secretary of State Antony Blinken read prepared notes for journalists invited to watch the opening of the meeting, in which he vowed to raise “deep concerns” by the Biden government about some Chinese actions, Beijing’s top Diplomat Yang Jiechi returned immediately.
Yang warned the US not to interfere in China’s “internal affairs” and said it should “stop promoting its own democracy in the rest of the world,” adding that many Americans “actually have little confidence in the United States’ democracy.” States have “.
His remarks went well beyond the two minutes US officials had agreed upon before the talks, and Blinken insisted on providing a counter-argument while the media was still present. The Chinese then accused him of being “condescending”, as their US counterparts complained of “great”.
In a summary of the exchange released a few hours after the exchange, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it was the US side “seriously timed out” and “provoked controversy” by “unreasonable attacks” in its opening speeches “started. about China’s domestic and foreign policy.
However, the exchange behind closed doors seems to have been more personable. A senior White House official told reporters after the first session that the talks were “substantive, serious and direct.”
“We used the meeting exactly as planned to set out our interests and priorities, and we heard the same thing from our Chinese colleagues,” they said before the second series of talks began.
This meeting is expected to last until late in the evening in Alaska. The last talks are to begin on Friday morning, local time.
“Biggest geopolitical test”
Since Biden was elected last year, Beijing has made it clear that while it wants relations with Washington to be restored, it wants one on its own terms.
While China’s global reputation has been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the country has remained largely unscathed economically, and politically the Communist Party is more secure than ever, as the renewed raids in Xinjiang and Hong Kong show. Since 2010, China has been calling for a “new model of great power relations,” a framework for a more balanced relationship that Washington has largely rejected. But Biden may be the first US president to face a China that sees itself on a par with the US and is not satisfied with playing the role of a junior partner. In an editorial earlier this month, the state-run China Daily said, “Hopes were high that (the Biden government) would work with China to move bilateral relations on a more positive path.” While Beijing has made it clear that it prefers a stable relationship, the aggressive moves by the Trump administration have also shown that China can survive a lot of whatever the US has to do, be it trade tariffs, sanctions or diplomatic pressure. After Biden claimed he had a “robust” phone call to Xi last month, Chinese state media have shaped the discussion in very different ways. Xi appeared to reject Washington’s concerns about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, saying, “The US side should respect China’s core interests and act prudently.”
Beijing may have been hoping for a relationship it had during Biden’s last visit to the government under President Barack Obama, whose rhetoric about the harsh approach to China and an alleged “fulcrum to Asia” had little impact on the two countries. Economic ties, according to critics, do little to contain China’s territorial ambitions.
Blinken, for its part, made it clear that this is out of the question. He has called US-China relations “the greatest geopolitical test of the 21st century” and gathered Washington’s allies in the region against Beijing ahead of the Alaska meeting this week.
An additional wrinkle in the talks is the trial of two Canadians detained in China for espionage. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in 2018 after the US requested the extradition of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou from Canada.
The trial of Spavor began in Dandong, China on Friday when officials met in Alaska. Both Blinken and Biden had previously asked Beijing to release the two men, whose detention in Ottawa and Washington is viewed as arbitrary and political. This could be a slight sign of goodwill from Beijing, possibly after a life-saving conviction and imprisonment.
According to Chinese state media and local Canadian officials, the trial of Spavor was completed in a few hours. A statement posted on the Liaoning Dandong Intermediate People’s Court website said that a judgment will be pronounced “at a later date in accordance with the law.” The trial against Kovrig is expected to begin on Monday.
Such goodwill could be in short supply, however, depending on how high Beijing’s hopes were for the Alaska Summit.
For its part, Washington made it clear this week that it was unwilling to compromise. In Tokyo, Blinken promised the US “to push back if necessary if China uses coercion or aggression to find its way.”
His Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, said the “free and open international order is being severely challenged by attempts to change the status quo through violence and advancement of the authoritarian system,” adding that Tokyo and Washington have agreed to that Beijing must be held accountable.
A similar message was delivered days later in Seoul, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his country and the US would “continue to work together on common challenges”.
While Trump had outwardly positive relations with both Moon and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his policy towards US allies in the region was often unpredictable at US military bases in the respective countries or slaps in the face with trade tariffs.
In his speech this week, Moon appeared to be critical of Trump when he welcomed the “return of diplomacy and the alliance” with the US.
Such stronger ties could be of concern to Beijing, whose aggressive moves along sea and land borders have shaken many neighbors. India in particular, long a neutral party in US-China relations, has come much closer to Washington amid border collisions with Chinese forces in the Himalayas.
This month, Biden virtually met with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, a group informally known as the “Quad,” and the four later issued a joint statement saying they were “a free, open, A safe and prosperous Indo is committed to the “Pacific Region”, seen as a message to Beijing. Although it is not a formal military alliance like NATO, the Quad or the Quadrangular Security Dialogue is used by some as a potential counterweight to growing Chinese influence and alleged aggression in the Asian Pacific views, and there have been proposals that South Korea could join further strengthening the alliance.
The compilation has been denounced by Beijing as an anti-China bloc, but it’s one that – if translated into a more coherent alliance – could have a real impact on Chinese politics.
And since the Alaska talks are unlikely to lead to closer ties between Washington and Beijing, China’s leaders may be concerned about what might result.