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The end of the first direct talks between China and the Biden administration … a mutual reprimand and a tense atmosphere, but no breakthrough

Officials from China and America concluded, Friday, March 19, 2021, what Washington described as “difficult and direct” talks, which revealed the depth of tensions between the two largest economies in the world with the beginning of the administration of President Joe Biden.

The two-day talks ended after a rare and hot start Thursday, when both sides distorted the other’s policies in front of TV cameras. These were the first high-level personal talks between the two sides since Biden took office.

Lack of common ground

According to Reuters, the talks did not seem to produce a diplomatic breakthrough as expected, and the bitter overt rivalry indicated that there was little common ground between the two countries in order to reset relations that had deteriorated to the lowest level in decades.

The period leading up to the talks was marked by visits by US officials to Japan and South Korea, Washington’s allies, and a series of moves by the United States that showed it is taking a firm stand.

As US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, moments after the Chinese delegation left the hotel’s meeting room, “We expected to have difficult and direct talks on a wide range of issues, and that’s exactly what we had.”

Members of the Chinese delegation left the hotel without speaking to reporters, but the senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi told the Chinese (CGTN) television network, at a later time, that the talks were constructive and beneficial, “but of course there are still differences.”

“China will firmly protect national sovereignty, security and development,” Yang said.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that he was not surprised that the United States received a “defensive response” from China, after allegations of human rights violations by China were raised in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, in addition to cyber attacks and pressure on Taiwan.

But Blinken said that the two sides also have intersecting interests over Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and climate change, and that the United States had accomplished during the meetings what it came for.

He also said, “With regard to economics, trade and technology, our counterparts have told us that we are reviewing these issues in close consultation with Congress, and with our allies and partners, and we will move forward on them, in a manner that fully protects and promotes the interests of our workers and companies.” Chinese state television quoted Wang Yi, a Chinese state councilor, who joined the meetings, as saying that China has made clear to the US side that sovereignty is a matter of principle, and it should not underestimate China’s determination to defend it.

Feverish start

Was the first High-level face-to-face talks With China, it began Thursday, in a frenzied atmosphere that brought together US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, White House National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan, with the highest official in the ruling Communist Party for diplomacy Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Blinken said in a speech during the meeting that they would discuss with the Chinese delegation the practices committed by Beijing against the Uighurs in the East Turkestan region, as well as its policies in the regions of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The minister also mentioned that China, with the steps it is taking on these issues, “threatens the global order, which is based on rules that guarantee global stability.”

Blinken pointed out that America and China have their own political systems, adding: “Despite these differences, the two countries share common interests in the climate and the global economy.”

The historic meeting between the American and Chinese delegations began frantically, as Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Yi criticized the United States for its sanctions on Beijing, against the backdrop of its Hong Kong policies.

In response to the US accusations against China, the minister said that Beijing “does not accept the invasion, the overthrow of regimes and the slaughter of the people of other countries,” alluding to the United States.

He continued, “It is important for Washington to change its image first, and to stop exporting its democracy to the world. Many people in the United States do not have much confidence in their country’s democracy.”

Minister Yang criticized the United States’ talk of universal values, stressing that “neither the United States itself nor the Western world represent international public opinion.”

Yang said that China will not accept the accusations of the United States, noting that “recent developments put relations between the two countries in an unprecedented difficult position.”

Commenting on the US sanctions against his country, the minister said: “It is impossible to strangle China.”

The desire of the American side to remove newspaper and media representatives before Yang’s speech, which lasted about 18 minutes, caused a state of controversy, as the Chinese minister criticized this step, considering it unfair to him.

The US State Department later claimed that the delegations agreed to speak for two minutes, but the Chinese side violated this protocol.

This is the first bilateral meeting that brings together officials from the two countries since Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States at the beginning of this year, with the aim of examining the deep, often unresolved differences between the two largest powers in the world, which are locked in a relentless confrontation.

The meeting takes place in an atmosphere of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington over a range of issues, from Hong Kong to human rights, technology rivalry, espionage, treatment of the Uyghur minority and trade.

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