Ties between the United States and China face a new test at Alaska meeting


WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States and China will face a new test in their increasingly troubled relations. when senior officials from both countries meet in Alaska.

Ties between the world’s two largest economies have been severed for years and the Biden administration has yet to indicate that it is ready or willing to back down on hard-line positions. taken under President Donald Trump. China has also shown no signs of being prepared to ease the pressure it has exerted. Therefore, the stage is set for a controversial first face-to-face meeting on Thursday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with China’s two top diplomats, State Councilor Wang Yi and Communist Party of China foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi, in Anchorage, Alaska. Difficult discussions are anticipated on trade, human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong, China’s western Xinjiang region, Taiwan, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic.

Agreements are not expected.

“This is really a one-time meeting,” said a senior administration official. “This is not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.” The official informed reporters before the meeting on condition of anonymity.

Blinken will attend the just-arrived meeting from Japan and South Korea, where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were promoting the Biden administration’s engagement with their treaty allies in Asia.

Just one day before the meeting, Blinken announced new sanctions on officials for China’s crackdown on democracy advocates in Hong Kong. In response, the Chinese intensified their rhetoric by opposing US interference in internal affairs.

China, unsurprisingly, harshly criticized the United States’ criticism of giving a pro-Beijing committee the power to appoint more Hong Kong lawmakers, reducing the proportion of those directly elected and ensuring that only one is elected. allow those to be determined to be truly loyal to Beijing. run for office, effectively excluding opposition figures from the political process.

The imposition of sanctions “fully exposes the sinister intention of the United States to interfere in China’s internal affairs, disrupt Hong Kong and obstruct the stability and development of China,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters, Zhao Lijian, in a daily briefing on Wednesday.

The White House set low expectations for the Blinken and Sullivan meeting, which officials say will be an initial opportunity to address intense disagreements.

The senior administration official described the talks as an opportunity for the two sides to “take stock” of the relationship. The official said the two sides will not issue a joint statement after the meeting and that no major announcements are expected from the talks.

China’s ambassador to the United States also downplayed expectations for the Alaska meeting in comments to Chinese media on Wednesday, while holding out hope that it would pave the way for better communication.

“Naturally, we do not expect a round of dialogue to solve all the problems between China and the United States and we are not very hopeful,” Cui Tiankai said in a transcript of his comments posted on the embassy’s website.

“My hope is that this can be a start and that the two parties can begin a process of dialogue that is sincere, constructive and realistic,” said Cui. “If we can do that, I think this exchange will be successful.”

Blinken, in Japan before heading to South Korea and Alaska, said the United States “will back off if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”

“The relationship with China is very complex,” he said. “It has contradictory aspects; it has competitive aspects; it has cooperative aspects. But the common denominator in dealing with each of them is to make sure that we approach China from a position of strength, and that strength begins with our alliance, with our solidarity, because it really is a unique asset that we have and China does not. ” . t. “

The Chinese do not back down.

On Wednesday at the United Nations, they criticized the United States ‘human rights record, citing what they called the United States’ failures against COVID-19 that cost “hundreds of thousands of lives,” as well as racial discrimination, police brutality and an “evil past genocide “. . “Jiang Duan, advisor to the Chinese mission in Geneva, voiced the criticism at the end of a review of the US rights record at the UN Human Rights Council.

The administration has held a series of talks with Pacific allies, including Biden’s virtual summit with Quad leaders – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – before engaging in high-level talks with China.

Trump prided himself on forging what he considered a strong relationship with Xi Jinping. But the relationship disintegrated after the coronavirus pandemic spread from Wuhan province around the world, unleashing an economic and public health disaster.

In addition to rejecting China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific and its human rights record, Biden faces other thorny issues in the relationship.

But so far, it has refused to rescind hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs imposed by Trump on China or lift bans on Chinese apps.

However, Biden is seeking China’s cooperation to pressure North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on his nation’s nuclear program.

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Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington, Jamey Keaten in Geneva, and Zen Soo in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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