Yang Jiechi, the top official of the Chinese Communist Party in charge of foreign affairs, made a long series of “counterattacks” at the U.S.-China Dialogue in Alaska, which prompted high praise from the Chinese official media and intensified a new wave of anti-American sentiment. “The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has often been criticized by the Chinese government for his role as a diplomat.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has often been described as “brutal” and is said to be a typical representative of China’s war-wolf diplomats. Unlike Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Yang Jiechi, who holds the real power in diplomacy, is not exposed and gives the outside world a gentle and elegant feeling. This Time, in the U.S.-China Alaska Dialogue, the performance of Yang Jiechi, the leading Chinese figure, was described by some netizens as “awe-inspiring” by Zhao Lijian.
The United Daily News also commented, “Chinese Communist diplomats have always been concerned about the elegance of their stance and the sharpness of their language in diplomatic situations, and their model is Zhou Enlai. But today’s U.S.-China dialogue in Anchorage, Alaska’s capital, is no different from a shrew’s scolding.”
The Washington Post said that this is the first time the Biden administration has experienced China’s “wolf diplomacy” style. The lack of diplomatic decorum and tact in such a high-level diplomatic meeting shatters any illusion of a possible reset in U.S.-China relations. The report also pointed out that Chinese diplomats were more forceful in their style at Thursday’s dialogue than at any public talks during Trump‘s tenure, leaving people on both sides worried about the state of U.S.-China relations.
The U.S.-China dialogue opened with a bang, with host Secretary of State John Blinken briefly accusing China of breaking rules and threatening global stability, citing Chinese actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, as well as Tibet and Taiwan, as serious concerns for the U.S. side. U.S. Security Adviser Sullivan, for his part, said the United States does not seek conflict with China but welcomes fierce competition, and the two spoke for a little more than two minutes each.
Yang Jiechi then fired back, speaking for about 17 minutes in one breath. Yang Jiechi advised the U.S. to take care of human rights issues such as the “massacre” of African-Americans in the U.S., and when the U.S. criticized China for cyber attacks, Yang Jiechi ridiculed the U.S. as the champion of cyber attacks, saying, “It is not possible to make a backhanded attack” and “The U.S. is talking about universal values. The U.S. is talking about universal values and whether it is solid in its heart, because you cannot represent, you can only represent the U.S. government”. Yang Jiechi asked the United States to stop touting American democracy to the world, “The United States can neither represent international public opinion nor the West”.
Yang Jiechi spoke for 17 minutes, plus Wang Yi’s speech, plus an interpreter, for nearly half an hour, to which Blinken asked reporters to stay and add a few words. He countered that, in complete contrast to what Yang Jiechi said, the U.S. is back in the world and strengthening alliances that are highly affirmed by many countries that are equally seriously concerned about human rights in China. In response to Yang Jiechi’s criticism of the United States for minding its own business first, Sullivan added that a confident nation is able to reflect on its own shortcomings and continually seek to improve. That is the secret of the United States.
After the two men finished, Yang Jiechi’s anger reached a fever pitch, “I thought you guys were too good to be true, we thought you would observe basic diplomatic etiquette.” Yang Jiechi’s most surprising remark was, “I will now make a remark that you are not qualified to say in front of China that you talk to China from a position of strength. 20 years ago, 30 years ago you would not have had this position because the Chinese do not eat this.”
Yang Jiechi’s remarks were considered to be far beyond the diplomatic bottom line. However, once Yang Jiechi made this last remark, some commentaries also thought that it was no wonder Yang Jiechi, whose remarks would certainly please Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, to hear them. What this statement means is that in China’s eyes, the United States is no longer powerful and the United States has lost its former status. Xi Jinping made this statement at China’s “two sessions” not long ago: “China can now look at the world on an even keel. Xi Jinping also said not long ago that the United States is the top threat to China, and by “the world”, Xi Jinping should be referring to the United States.
The United Daily News commented that Yang Jiechi’s “fierce and blunt words may have written a watershed note for the U.S.-China relationship”. When China “unabashedly expresses its contempt and disdain for its big brother, it is more and more likely that the fear of a Thucydides trap for the U.S. and China will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Perhaps the Chinese delegation needs an internal and external explanation for the “extraordinary” performance of its leaders. The Chinese delegation’s “briefing” countered that the U.S. side had “violated etiquette” and “is not a way to treat guests. However, according to the transcripts of the opening remarks of the dialogue session, PBS reporters found that Secretary of State Blinken’s opening remarks lasted 2 minutes and 27 seconds, U.S. National Security Advisor Sullivan spoke for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, while Yang Jiechi’s opening remarks lasted 16 minutes and 14 seconds, followed by 3 minutes and 26 seconds of interpretation, and Wang Yi’s opening remarks lasted 4 minutes and 09 seconds.
The Chinese side took the fire out and the Chinese official media, Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily, made a big deal out of it, making the anger against the United States grow stronger. The big red post on the People’s Daily microblogging site marked out Yang Jiechi’s original words in both English and Chinese: “The Chinese don’t eat this, and the U.S. is not qualified to speak to China from above.” Other words of Yang Jiechi, widely circulated on Weibo, are: “We think too well of you!” “Have we suffered less from the foreigners?” The video of Yang Jiechi’s speech went viral on the Chinese Internet, and the China Daily said on its WeChat public page that “1901 and 2021 are both Xinchu years, but China is no longer the same China.”
When a CNN reporter asked Zhao Lijian about the “serious timeout” on Friday, Zhao also said that the U.S. side “seriously overstayed its welcome in its opening remarks. Interestingly, in response to a reporter’s question, Zhao accused the U.S. side of “starting the trouble first” while seemingly underplaying the potential unpredictable consequences of Yang Jiechi’s “showboating,” saying, “So the two sides were full of fireworks and drama from the very beginning of the opening remarks, which was not the original intention of the Chinese side.” At least, Zhao Lijian mentioned “both sides” here, not exactly “backtracking”.