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Alaska dispute between US and Chinese officials an inauspicious start to a new era of relations

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When it was first revealed that top U.S. and Chinese officials would meet in Alaska this week, there was a degree of optimism that could mark the start of a new relationship between the two countries, after an almost complete break during the final year of President Donald Trump’s term.

However, even Cui was surprised by the agile start of the conversations. After U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken read prepared statements for journalists invited to see the opening of the meeting, in which he pledged to show “deep concerns” that the Biden administration had with some actions Chinese, Beijing’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, immediately pressed his back.

Yang warned the U.S. to stop getting involved in China’s “internal affairs” and said it should “stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” adding that many North Americans Americans “actually have little confidence in U.S. democracy.”

His statements went well beyond the two minutes U.S. officials said they had agreed before the talks and Blinken insisted on issuing a rebuttal while the media was still present, and the Chinese accused him of ” condescending, “as his American counterparts complained. of “grandiosity.”

In a write of the exchange, published hours after it took place, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it was the American band that “seriously exceeded the time limit” in its initial statements and “provoked disputes” by launching “attacks.” unreasonable “against China ‘s domestic and foreign agents. policies.

However, closed-door exchanges seem to be more sympathetic. A senior White House official told reporters after the first session that the conversations were “substantive, serious and direct.”

“We used the session, as we had planned, to outline our interests and priorities, and we listened to the same from our Chinese counterparts,” they said, before the second round of talks began.

This meeting is expected to last until Alaska afternoon, and the final set of talks will begin on Friday morning, local time.

“The biggest geopolitical test”

Ever since Biden was elected last year, Beijing has made it clear that while it wants to re-establish relations with Washington, it wants to have one on its own terms.

While China ‘s world reputation was damaged by the Coronavirus pandemic, the country has appeared largely unharmed economically and, politically, the Communist Party is even safer than ever, as evidenced by renewed crackdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Since 2010, China has called for a “new model of high-power relations,” a framework for a more balanced relationship that Washington has largely rejected. But Biden is perhaps the first president of the United States to face a China that sees itself on an equal footing with the United States and does not settle for the role of minor partner.
In an editorial earlier this month, the state-run China Daily reported dit “Hopes were high that (the Biden administration) would work with China to get bilateral relations on a more positive path.”
While Beijing has made it clear that it prefers a stable relationship, the Trump administration’s aggressive moves have also shown that China can it’s been a long time since the United States has to throw it away, whether trade tariffs, sanctions or diplomatic pressure.
After Biden claimed to have had a “robust” call with Xi last month, Chinese state media framed the discussion very differently, with Xi appearing to dismiss Washington’s concerns about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, saying “the US side should respect China’s basic interests and act prudently.”

Beijing may have expected a more similar relationship than it had during Biden’s last stint in government, under President Barack Obama, whose rhetoric was harsh on China and an alleged “pivot toward Asia “did not have much effect on the relationship economic ties, nor, according to critics, do much to curb Chinese territorial ambitions.

Blinken, meanwhile, has made it clear that this is not on the charts. He described the US-China relationship as “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century” and, ahead of this week’s Alaska meeting, brought together Washington’s allies in the region against Beijing.

There is an additional wrinkle in the talks trial of two Canadians held in China on espionage charges. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in 2018 after the US demanded the extradition of Canada from Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Spavor’s trial began Friday in Dandong, China, when officials met in Alaska. Earlier, both Blinken and Biden have urged Beijing to release the two men, whose detention in Ottawa and Washington is arbitrary and political, and to do so (potentially after a conviction and conviction for saving face of time) could be an easy sign of goodwill from Beijing.

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However, that goodwill could be lacking, depending on Beijing’s high hopes at the Alaska summit.

For its part, Washington made it clear this week that it was unwilling to commit. Speaking of Tokyo, Blinken promised that the US “will back down if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to make its way.”

His Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, said that “the free and open international order is very much challenged by attempts to change the status quo by the strength and progress of the authoritarian system,” adding that Tokyo and Washington agreed in the need to hold Beijing accountable.

A similar message was delivered to Seoul days later, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his country and the United States “would continue to act together in the face of shared challenges.”

Although Trump had positive external relations with Moon and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his policies toward U.S. allies in the region were often unpredictable, shifting between increasing cooperation on some fronts, while threatened to force Japan and South Korea to pay U.S. troop bases in their respective countries, or slap them with trade tariffs.

In his speech this week, Moon appeared criticizing Trump when he welcomed the “return of diplomacy and alliance” with the United States.

These stronger ties could worry Beijing, whose aggressive movements at its sea and land borders have shaken many neighbors. India, in particular, for a long time a neutral party in the US-China relationship, has come much closer to Washington amid border clashes with Chinese forces in the Himalayas.

This month, Biden he met virtually with the leaders of Japan, India, and Australia, a grouping known informally as “the Quad”, and the four later ones issued a joint statement saying they were “committed to a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” seen as a message to Beijing.
While some do not see a formal military alliance as NATO, the Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a potential counterweight to growing Chinese influence and alleged aggression in the Asia-Pacific region, and there have been suggestions. South Korea could unite, further strengthening the alliance.

Beijing has denounced the collation as an anti-Chinese bloc, but it is something that, if translated into a more cohesive alliance, could have a real effect on the influence of Chinese politics.

And with negotiations in Alaska seemingly unlikely to result in close relations between Washington and Beijing, Chinese leaders could be worried about what this might turn out to be.

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