On the verge of a scandal. This is the best phrase to assess the outcome of the Sino-American strategic dialogue involving US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Adviser to the President Jake Sullivan, as well as director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Yang Jiechi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The meeting took place on March 18-19 in Anchorage, Alaska.
To some extent, the talks appeared unexpected for many research associates and political analysts, since recent Washington-Beijing relations left much to be desired, to put it mildly. The United States, according to its new foreign policy strategy, deems China as the key enemy and rival across the board. The facts speak for themselves. For instance, just before the Alaska talks, Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a multi-day tour of the Indo-Pacific countries, visiting Japan and South Korea, with the Pentagon head dropping by India either. Washington made no secret of the trip's main purpose to negotiate with a view to creating an anti-Chinese alliance, a kind of "eastern NATO".
It should be noted that it was not yesterday that the warm-up preceding the Anchorage negotiations began. Thus, President Joe Biden's rule has already seen Washington make tough statements, accompanied by equally tough actions, to exert pressure on Beijing. Through its public rhetoric, the United States has been mounting wrong-headed attacks on China over the past few weeks, with a particular focus on many issues relating to Beijing's domestic policy. The White House had been demonstrating such a behavior until the Alaska talks began.
But the meeting in Anchorage took place after all, and it was robust enough. The two countries' strained relationship made itself felt right after the meeting began, when despite the presence of media representatives, Blinken and Sullivan said China was challenging the international rule of law and accused Beijing of violating human rights, having particularly slammed its policy towards Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
However, the Chinese negotiators did immediately "take the frills out of" Blinken and Sullivan, saying that guests should not be received this way, contrary to all the diplomatic etiquette rules. Yang Jiechi delivered a speech and criticized US actions in foreign and trade policy. In doing so, the Chinese delegation made it clear to its opponents that China wasn't anything like it used to be some 20-30 years ago, and that it would no longer tolerate such a patronizing tone. "USA isn’t qualified to speak to China from a position of strength," Yang Jiechi said. In turn, Wang Yi stressed that the United States should quit the habit of interfering in China's internal affairs.
It was a truly unprecedented first face-to-face confrontation between Washington and Beijing in decades. Beyond a shadow of doubt, it does carry weight and will gin up for adjusting America's strategy for the PRC. The confrontation between the two countries in the current context should lead Washington to think that the United States should no longer pretend able to tell China what and how to do. This era is over. In order to resolve knotty issues with Beijing, Washington should be guided by the principles of equality and respect in its dialogue with China.
The dramatic start of the talks on Thursday, which turned into a violent wrangle, uncovered the depth of tensions existing between the two world's largest economies, and made it abundantly clear that the parties are still miles away from mutual understanding. Although in the end, the parties still managed to agree on some issues during their dialogue in Anchorage.
In particular, the negotiators agreed to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, decided to create a climate change working group, with the American side confirming its commitment to the One-China principle vital for Beijing. During the talks, the sides also discussed trade and economic issues, healthcare, cyber security, issues related to their armies and law enforcement agencies, the media, as well as Iran's nuclear issue, the situation in Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Korean Peninsula. The US and Chinese delegations agreed to maintain and strengthen contacts and coordination on these issues. The parties declared willingness to strengthen coordination and consultations on multilateral formats, including the G20 and APEC, the memorandum of meeting reads.
It is important to stress here that although the Biden administration has yet to fully formulate its China policy, including the import duties, the meeting in Anchorage has starkly illustrated that Beijing-Washington relations will never be the same again, with major changes looming. And while the current US administration will likely keep looking more closely at the protection of human rights in China, the White House will be forced to reconsider its approach to China. According to some analysts, including those from America, the United States will simply fail parallel confrontations with China and Russia over the strategic crisis Washington faces and its inability to remain the global hegemon.
One final comment is that Anchorage is halfway across the air route between the capitals of China and the United States. For this very reason Wang Yi called the city a "fueling station" and the two countries' meeting place when moving towards each other. Perhaps these words by the Chinese Foreign Minister will become prescient, and Beijing and Washington will find common ground that will provide for establishing bilateral relations. Peaceful coexistence and cooperation is the only way out for them both. The sides should find mutual compromises and seek beneficial cooperation, not confrontation. This, presumably, will meet the interests not only of China and the United States, but also of other countries that are heavily dependent on their relations with Beijing and Washington.