The first high-level strategic dialogue between the United States and China since the Biden administration took office ended without a joint statement or a joint press conference. The U.S. side described the dialogue as “difficult and direct,” and the Chinese side said “important differences remain between the two sides.
The two-day U.S.-China High-Level Strategic Dialogue came to an end in Alaska on Friday (March 19). Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the media after the meeting that the U.S. side has long been aware of the fundamental differences between the two sides in a number of areas, including Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and cybersecurity, so “it’s not surprising that when we raised these issues clearly and directly, we got a contradictory response. “
However, Blinken also noted that the two sides have intersecting interests on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and climate change, and that the U.S. has done what it needs to do in the talks. He described, “On the economy, trade and science and technology, we told Chinese officials that we are considering these topics and consulting closely with Congress, allies and partners on them, and we will move forward in a way that fully protects and advances the interests of American workers and businesses.”
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who joined him at the press conference, also concluded, “We previously anticipated a difficult and direct dialogue on a wide range of topics, and that’s exactly what we’re experiencing.”
China makes its position known to its own official media
Unlike the U.S. representatives, the Chinese delegation did not speak to all journalists present as they left the hotel, but Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, and Wang Yi, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, made statements to the official Chinese media.
According to Xinhua, Yang Jiechi believes: “This dialogue is useful and conducive to enhancing mutual understanding. The two sides still have important differences on some issues.” For his part, Wang Yi said, “China’s attitude toward the development of China-U.S. relations is clear and consistent. We hope that the U.S. side will also move in the same direction, especially to respect and take care of each other’s core interests and major concerns. On this basis, the Chinese side has always kept the door open for continued dialogue between China and the United States.”
“Golden words” for whom?
It is worth noting that the U.S. State Department on Thursday published on its official website a transcript of the opening statements of both sides in the first round of U.S.-China talks. The official website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry only contains information about the Chinese side’s remarks.
During the talks, official media, including the People’s Daily and CCTV News, also reported what some netizens called “golden words” from the Chinese side. For example, Yang Jiechi told the U.S. side on Thursday that “the U.S. is not qualified to speak to China from a high position, and the Chinese do not eat this. When dealing with China, we must do so on the basis of mutual respect. History will prove that the one who takes a cardinal approach to China is the one who will suffer in the end.” For his part, Wang Yi stressed, “We demand that the U.S. side completely abandon its hegemonic practice of interfering in China’s internal affairs. This old problem of the U.S. needs to be corrected!”
In response to Thursday’s talks, the State Department said the following day that U.S. diplomats had “serious discussions” with Chinese diplomats in Alaska and that the United States would not let the other side’s “show” distract us from expressing our principles and engaging in a difficult dialogue with China. We know that sometimes these diplomatic statements can be exaggerated and may even be directed at domestic audiences,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said at a news conference. “But we’re not going to let the other side of the show stop us from doing what we want to do in Alaska, and that’s express our principles and our expectation to have the tough conversations we need with China as early as possible.”