Top American and Chinese diplomats were involved in a public spat during the Alaska summit. A two-member delegation from China is visiting the United States to discuss policy matters, in an attempt to restore ties that have become overly strained in recent years.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was accompanied by Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser to meet their Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Wang Yi, and the Foreign Affairs Chief Yang Jiechi of Communist Party in a two-day long summit.
It was expected that the environment would be tensed, as just a few days ago the US had sanctioned China against the crackdown on political freedom reforms in Hong Kong.
The on-camera contentious exchanges that reporters witnessed were something that’s totally different from traditional pleasantries that are exchanged prior to diplomatic discussions.
In his opening statement, Secretary Blinken emphasized Beijing’s return to a rules-based system, while accusing the country of violating international practices by initiating a crackdown against minorities including Uyghurs in Xinjiang. He also expressed his reservations about the cyber-attacks against the US as well as economic coercion.
Sullivan further claimed that it wasn’t necessary to have a conflict, but healthy competition is always welcomed if the countries play by the rules and follow the principles.
China’s Yang Jiechi responded with a lengthy lecture, even though it was decided that both sides would not take more than two minutes to speak. Yang Jiechi claimed that the US has been interfering in China’s internal affairs for a long time and they firmly oppose it. Jiechi further added that this interference needs to stop. He held the point of view that the US will do much better in terms of human rights and that China has made steady progress in this regard.
Blinken then signaled media men to stay so that he can rebut the criticism of the US democracy. He then asked the newsmen to leave but Chinese officials insisted they stay so that they can counterfeit the accusations made by the American diplomats.
The affair which was supposed to be a four-minute photo-op turned into a diplomatic spat that lasted for more than an hour. The rest of the summit is scheduled to take place as planned. Before the summit, the Biden Administration had conveyed to China that this time around it would take a tough line with Beijing.