US and Chinese envoys exchange acrimonious remarks in first meeting under Biden administration

Top American and Chinese diplomats open first formal meeting with a war of words

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High-ranking American and Chinese diplomats set an unusually contentious tone for their first meeting on Thursday with acrimonious public remarks during their first meeting under the Biden administration.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly listed several US objections to Chinese policies during the meeting in Alaska. Mr Blinken's criticism included references to the Uighurs, Hong Kong, Tawian and Chinese cyber attacks.

"Each of these actions threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability," Mr Blinken said. "That's why they're not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today."

Mr Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan are in talks with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi and state councillor Wang Yi.

The Chinese delegation led by Yang Jiechi (C), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office and Wang Yi (2nd L), China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister, speak with their U.S. counterparts at the opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. March 18, 2021.  Frederic J. Brown/Pool via REUTERS

Mr Yang in turn criticised the killings of black Americans in the United States, singling out the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States," Mr Yang said.

The US delegation then accused the Chinese diplomats of grandstanding and of breaching a protocol establishing a two-minute time period for opening remarks.

“We have continued with our planned presentation, knowing that exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience,” said a senior US administration official. “We still have a lot of business to conduct.

“We will use the remaining hours to outline for the Chinese delegation in private the same messages we have consistently delivered in public. The Chinese delegation, on the other hand, seems to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance.”

The meeting came after Mr Blinken and Mr Sullivan visited US allies Japan and South Korea before flying to Alaska for the meeting, which the Biden administration insisted on holding on American soil.

US officials have already promised frank discussions with the Chinese delegation in private meetings scheduled for Thursday and throughout the day on Friday.

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