The first discussions between the United States and China under the Biden administration did not go in the way the White House expected. It was hoped the meeting in Anchorage would create a platform to repair the increasingly strained Sino-US relationship. Instead, the administration’s foreign policy team had its ass handed to it, for lack of a better term. China made it clear from the opening statement of its delegation that the rules have changed. The US opening statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated emphatically that Beijing needs to return to a rule-based system and cease its flagrant violations of international norms and in some cases law. “Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken said. “Our intent is to be direct about our concerns, direct about our priorities, with the goal of a more clear-eyed relationship between our countries moving forward.”
Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi responded with an especially long statement aimed at perceived US interference in China’s domestic affairs. “China is firmly opposed to U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs. We have expressed our staunch opposition to such interference, and we will take firm actions in response of human rights. We hope that the United States will do better on human rights,” he said, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. “China has made steady progress in human rights.”
In the days leading up to the meeting, the Biden administration has made it clear it will adopt a firm stance with China. Yesterday’s meeting makes it plain to see that Beijing could care less. China believes its time has finally arrived, while the United States and the West are mired in irreversible decline. The PRC’s economic, diplomatic and military strength has reached a level where it can now confidently adopt an aggressive posture without having to worry about how the United States will respond. As China asserts itself it will undoubtedly cause relations with the US to deteriorate.
Yesterday, the Biden administration had an opportunity to lay down the law, so to speak. Instead, Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan curled up in the fetal position and failed to rise to the challenge.
Their first impression was not a good one.