The world was side-lined by the war of words and the intensity of the fireworks in the first day of the U.S.-China high-level dialogue in Alaska. The exchange of words continued after the meeting. China accused the U.S. of disregarding diplomatic etiquette and “running out of Time” in its opening remarks, while the U.S. accused Chinese officials of “grandstanding” and deliberately creating a “dramatic effect. So, what happened at the first U.S.-China talks in Alaska?
Who was “seriously overdue”? Who is violating diplomatic protocol?
Regarding the March 18 talks, Chinese official media said the U.S. representative “seriously overstayed his time and violated diplomatic protocol” when he first delivered his opening remarks. At the same time, a short video of Chinese representative Yang Jiechi responding on the scene went viral on Chinese social media. Chinese netizens were crazy about Yang Jiechi’s demonstration of China’s “strength” and his “justifiable” response.
However, is this really the case? According to the video, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken’s opening remarks lasted 2 minutes and 27 seconds, U.S. National Security Advisor Sullivan’s speech lasted 2 minutes and 17 seconds, while Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Director of the Office of the Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke for 16 minutes and 14 seconds, and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke for 4 minutes and 9 seconds.
At a regular press conference at the Chinese Foreign Ministry on March 19, when asked about the basis for China’s claim that the U.S. side had seriously overstayed its welcome, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not answer directly, but instead asked reporters to inquire about background briefings by Chinese delegation officials on the U.S.-China high-level dialogue.
He also stressed that the U.S. side had provoked the dispute by not complying with prior agreements regarding speaking time.
According to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, which reported on the background briefing, Chinese officials did not give any basis or reason as to why China considered the U.S. to be “seriously overdue. Zhao Lijian was essentially repeating what China had said at the briefing.
The Xinhua report quoted Chinese officials as saying, “China was invited to Anchorage in good faith to hold a strategic dialogue with the U.S. side and was prepared to conduct the dialogue in accordance with the procedures and arrangements agreed upon by both sides in advance. However, the U.S. side seriously overstayed its time in its opening remarks and provoked disputes by making unreasonable attacks and accusations against China’s domestic and foreign policies. This is not the way to treat guests and is not in line with diplomatic etiquette.” During the briefing, Chinese officials also made a point of saying, “China has responded sternly to this.”
But on the other hand, U.S. officials also accused the Chinese representatives of violating “diplomatic etiquette.”
Reuters quoted a U.S. official, who asked not to be named, as saying that before the talks the two sides agreed to a brief two-minute statement by each of the four officials. The official said, “The Chinese delegation …… appears to have come for show, focusing on dramatic performance rather than substantive talks. The fact that they were quick to violate diplomatic protocol speaks volumes about that.”
As is customary in diplomacy, in such high-level meetings, each side usually makes a statement of its position in front of reporters for a few minutes, and then, after the reporters leave, heated exchanges are possible. But it is rare for officials from both sides to exchange words directly under the media spotlight, as they did this time, and the process lasted almost an hour.
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter also said at a news conference that the Chinese representative’s performance was “dramatic. She suggested that the Chinese delegates’ performance may have been intended for a Chinese audience.
She said, “We know that sometimes these diplomatic statements can be exaggerated and may even be aimed at a domestic audience.” However, she added, “We didn’t let the other side’s performance stop us from doing what we intend to do in Alaska. That is, to express our principles and expectations and to have the difficult conversations with China that we must have as early as possible.”
U.S. fears public opinion against itself, chasing journalists away?
In Chinese media reports, the U.S. has been “careful” in this dialogue. For example, after the U.S. side responded to Yang Jiechi’s and Wang Yi’s words, it kicked out the reporters without waiting for Yang and Wang to respond. The Chinese Observer reported, “The ‘American double standard’ was played out in Anchorage when it was the Chinese side’s turn to speak.”
In an interview with Shenzhen TV, Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, interpreted it as follows: “After China’s opening remarks, the U.S. side rushed the reporters out of the room after realizing that it did not have an advantage in public opinion, an unreasonable approach that is clearly not in line with diplomatic etiquette, originally intended to grasp the advantage in public opinion, but instead revealed its own weakness of heart. “
The fact is that the video shot by the Associated Press shows that after Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi finished their speeches, the journalists on the scene were asked to leave and Blinken asked them to “wait” because he thought Yang Jiechi’s speech was out of time and he needed to make additional remarks.
Mr. Blinken said, “Director Yang, Wang, in view of your overtime speech, please allow me to say a few more words before we move on to the next step. I think Mr. Sullivan would like to say a few words as well.”
Later, Blinken and Sullivan each made additional remarks. After the two spoke, reporters were again asked to leave, according to the AP video. That’s the end of the AP video.
However, according to a tweet by PBS correspondent Nick Schifrin, foreign affairs and defense correspondent, Yang Jiechi then criticized the U.S. for speaking in a “condescending” tone and said that asking the journalists to leave was evidence that the U.S. does not support democracy.
In addition, Yang said it was unfair. He said that according to diplomatic etiquette, after the second round of the U.S. side’s speech, the Chinese side should also make additional remarks, but the U.S. side refused to do so and asked the press corps to leave the stage, so the Chinese side considered it unfair.
Another U.S. journalist at the scene described the talks as the Chinese side’s overtime, non-compliance, so that the U.S. side dissatisfied, for the sake of fairness also demanded the same “speaking time”, the reason why not let the Chinese side additional statements, because if you continue to supplement, the Chinese side and overtime, which is another “unfair The reason for not allowing the Chinese side to make additional statements is that if they continue to do so, the Chinese side will overrun the time limit, which is another kind of “unfairness.
However, according to the U.S. State Department’s transcript of the U.S.-China dialogue, Yang Jiechi made some remarks later, including “We think too well of you, and I think you will observe basic diplomatic protocol”, “The United States is not qualified to speak to China from above”, “You are not qualified to speak to China from above”, and “You are not qualified to speak to China from above”. “, “You are not qualified to say in front of China that you talk to China from a position of strength”, and “Have we suffered less from the foreigners?” Wang Yi was also on hand to tell the U.S., “This old problem of the U.S. needs to be corrected!”
All of which many in the media thought were not quite appropriate in a diplomatic setting.
What exactly did the U.S. say that upset China?
What exactly did the U.S. say that China said the U.S. had seriously provoked trouble in its opening remarks?
Blinken said the U.S. side will discuss Chinese behavior that raises deep concerns during the talks, “including behavior in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion against our allies.”
He stressed that matters involving Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan are not just internal affairs of China. He said, “All of these acts threaten the international rules that maintain world order, so they are not internal matters, and we feel obligated to raise them here today.”
Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said the concerns are not only American but also come from U.S. allies and partners and the broader international community. He said the U.S. does not seek conflict, but welcomes fierce competition and “will always stand up for our principles, our people and our friends.”
In additional remarks, Blinken said that in his calls to nearly 100 officials around the world and his visit to Japan and South Korea, he heard something very different than what he heard from Yang Jiechi. He told the Chinese: “What I heard was a depth of satisfaction that the United States is back, that we are re-engaging with our allies and our partners. I also hear a depth of concern about some of the actions that your administration is taking.”
He also warned that when President Biden visited China when he was vice president, he mentioned with Xi Jinping, then vice president, that “it’s never a good bet to bet on the United States losing. That’s true today as well.”
Sullivan, for his part, said “the secret of a confident nation that can take a hard look at its own shortcomings and always look to improve” is also the secret of the United States.
Blinken told reporters Friday that the U.S. and China disagree on a range of these issues. Naturally, it was no surprise to hear China’s defensive response. Although the talks did not produce any breakthroughs, as was widely expected, Blinken said the U.S. side achieved the purpose for which the meeting was held.
Americans see China as disrespecting the Biden Administration and its team
Reuters quoted Mike McCaul, a senior Republican member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, as saying that the Biden administration should recognize who it is dealing with as a result of the encounter.
He said, “Their belligerence and accusations should be a wake-up call for the Biden administration to be clear about who they are dealing with.”
Jordan Schneider, China affairs and technology analyst for the U.S. consulting firm Rongding Group, tweeted, “Chinese officials are mad as hell and don’t take the air out of their mouths when it comes to engaging with the Trump administration. But in their first engagement with Biden administration officials, you’d think they’d want to make a good first impression, and as a result, they’ve decided to act like war wolves and try to impress Xi Jinping.”
Bill Bishop, founder of the e-newsletter Sinocism (Foreigner’s View of China), replied to the tweet, saying, “They showed they don’t respect Biden and his team and think they’re weak.”