Top U.S. diplomats met with their Chinese counterparts on Thursday for the start of a planned two-day summit in Alaska — the first formal meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials under the Biden administration. Within minutes, China began its criticisms against the U.S., and went on for an unprecedented 18 minutes.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken first spoke to raise concerns about China’s human rights record and said many of China’s current actions threaten international order. China’s delegation then went into an 18-minute speech in which it accused the U.S. of deflecting blame on a number of issues, including its human rights record.
Blinken listed a number of concerning actions by China, including its alleged human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, its legislative takeover of Hong Kong and its efforts to pressure Taiwan, as well as cyberattacks on the U.S. and economic coercion against U.S. allies.
“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues,” Blinken said.
Responding to Blinken’s opening remarks, Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi said, “China is firmly opposed to U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs. We have expressed our staunch opposition to such interference and we will take firm actions in response.”
Yang then turned the issue of human rights on the U.S.
“We hope that the United States will do better on human rights,” He said. “China has made steady progress on human rights and the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights.”
Yang said U.S. human rights problems are “deep-seated” and did not come up only in the last four years, like the Black Lives Matter movement.
“So we do hope, for our two countries, it’s important that we manage our respective affairs well, instead of deflecting the blame on somebody else in this world,” Yang continued.
According to the Washington Examiner, Yang spoke for around 18 minutes, despite a customary two-minute allotment for opening remarks.
“China certainly in the past has not and in the future will not accept the unwarranted accusations from the U.S. side,” Yang said. “To accuse China of coercion even before sharing the relevant views with China, is this the right act to do? Of course not … We don’t think one should be so testy as to accuse some other country of coercion. Who is coercing whom? I think history and the international community will come to their own conclusions.”
“On cyberattacks, let me say that whether it’s the ability to launch cyberattacks or the technologies that could be deployed, the United States is the champion in this regard,” he added. “You can’t blame this problem on somebody else.”
Following China’s lengthy-response, the U.S. side accused the Chinese side of violating the agreed-upon two minutes of opening remarks for each side, BBC reported.
Responding to Yang, Blinken said he has met with nearly 100 counterparts from countries around the world and “what I’m hearing is very different from what you described.”
“I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re re-engaged with our allies and partners,” Blinken said. I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government has taken, and we’ll have an opportunity to discuss some of those when we get down to work.”
Blinken said there are two key hallmarks of U.S. leadership, the first is that its relationships with other countries are on a “totally voluntary-basis” and the second is that the U.S. constantly works to form “a more perfect union.”
“That quest, by definition, acknowledges our imperfections, acknowledges that we’re not perfect, we make mistakes, we have reversals, we take steps back,” Blinken said. “But what we’ve done throughout our history is to confront those challenges openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, not trying to sweep them under a rug. And sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but each and every time, we have come out stronger, better, more united as a country.”
Following the contentious opening remarks, U.S. officials told the BBC that the subsequent talks behind closed doors had been “substantive, serious and direct.”
The summit is set to continue for a second day on Friday.