The initial day of talks between China and the United States in Alaska, the first of the Biden era, has gone as the forecasts had hoped: harshly, at least in front of the cameras. Face to face, at a long table in the Captain Cook Hotel in the city of Anchorage, the two delegations turned what should have been a few minutes of formal trifles into an intense hour of exchanging reproaches. In the diplomatic version of a warrior dance haka Maori, before going into real work, each party put out their chest, listed their advantages and deployed their complaints, to mark territory and try to intimidate the opposite. Making sure the press saw it and the show reached its true audiences: their respective national audiences.
The protocol established that at the beginning of the opening session, each of the two heads of the respective delegations would deliver a two-minute statement. The host part began; Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that in the three planned dialogue sessions, the United States would address China’s actions in Hong Kong, the treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, Taiwan, cyberattacks against the United States and economic pressures against allies. from that country. “Each of these actions threatens the law-based order that maintains global stability,” Held.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi then took the floor. He spoke for 16 minutes – plus another as many for translation – to defend his country’s achievements in the fight against poverty or the defeat of the coronavirus and accuse Washington of “condescension” in his opening statements to the session. “The United States,” he argued, “does not represent the world. It only represents the United States Government. I do not believe that the vast majority of the countries of the world recognize that the universal values that the United States defends, or the opinion of the United States, represent international public opinion ”.
Instead of criticizing China, the state councilor opined, the United States should resolve its “deep” problems, including racial ones. “The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to exercise long-distance jurisdiction and repress other countries,” Yang said.
In video, statements this Friday by the Chinese Foreign spokesman.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi – hierarchically inferior to Yang, who is a member of the Politburo, the second level of command in the Communist Party – took the floor in turn to continue the list of grievances and complain that Washington would have imposed sanctions against 24 Chinese and Hong Kong central government officials on the eve of the meeting. “This is not how you should welcome your guests, and we wonder if the United States made that decision to try to gain some advantage in its interaction with China, but it is certainly a miscalculation, only reflecting vulnerability and weakness. within the United States ”, he opined.
When it seemed that everything was ending there, and the attendees began to guide the press present out of the room, so that the meeting could continue behind closed doors, Blinken called the journalists again for a new statement, out of program, in a break unusual protocol. A gesture that, in turn, Yang repeated when the group of reporters left the room again.
Later, in statements to their respective national journalists, each delegation accused the other of having violated the agreed protocol. A senior US official argued that the Chinese representation had arrived “ready for the posture, focused more on doing theater and putting on a drama than on substance.” For its part, the Chinese legation denounced that the United States had created an “inhospitable” situation and contrary to diplomatic etiquette.
That the public clash had, above all, an image purpose was shown by the fact that the conversations continued smoothly in the closed-door sessions. The first, even, lasted beyond the expected two hours, according to the senior US official. Those conversations were “substantial, serious and direct,” he said. “We have used them, as we intended, to express our interests and priorities, and we have heard the same from our Chinese counterparts.”
Although it was not only a question of image. The harshness of the exchange also reflects the depth of tensions between the two countries, which during Donald Trump’s term experienced the lowest moments of their relationship in half a century due to disputes over trade issues, technological sanctions and the situation in Xinjiang. Hong Kong and Taiwan. The friction shows no signs of abating during the Biden Administration, which, although it revises its policy towards China, maintains a policy similar to that of its predecessor.
The objective of the meeting is precisely to lay the foundations to manage the rivalry relationship over the next four years, in such a way that both countries can cooperate on issues of common interest such as the situation in Myanmar, the nuclear programs of North Korea or Iran, fighting the coronavirus pandemic or climate change.
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