BEIJING — China said Friday a “strong smell of gunpowder and drama” resulted from talks with top American diplomats in Alaska, continuing the contentious tone of the first face-to-face meetings under the Biden administration.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, speaking in Beijing, said American officials at the Alaska meetings had provoked Chinese officials into making a “solemn response” after U.S. officials made “groundless attacks” against Chinese foreign and domestic policies.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi took aim at each other’s country’s policies on Thursday in their meeting in Anchorage.
Zhao accused the U.S. side of overrunning the agreed time for opening remarks, prompting the sharp response from the Chinese delegation. The meetings, set to continue Friday, come amid disputes over trade, technology, human rights and China’s territorial claims to Taiwan and islands in the South China and East China seas. China has also strongly objected to U.S. calls for greater transparency about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the first cases of which were recorded in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
“It was the U.S. side that … provoked the dispute in the first place, so the two sides had a strong smell of gunpowder and drama from the beginning in the opening remarks. It was not the original intention of the Chinese side,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
At the Alaska meeting, Blinken affirmed U.S. solidarity with its allies in pushing back against China’s increasing efforts to spread its authoritarian mode of government through political and economic pressure. Yang responded with a list of Chinese complaints, accusing Washington of hypocrisy for criticizing Beijing on human rights and other issues at a time when the United States itself has been roiled by domestic discontent.
Blinken said China’s actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability, and thus the U.S. was obligated to raise them publicly. Yang responded by accusing the U.S. of failing to deal with its own human rights problems and took issue with what he said was “condescension” from Blinken, Sullivan and other U.S. officials.
The State Department also accused the Chinese delegation of exceeding the time limit for opening statements and suggested it seemed “intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance.”