Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on foreign policy at the State Department in Washington. The United States and China will face a new test in their increasingly troubled relations when top officials from both countries meet in Alaska. The Biden administration has yet to signal it’s ready or willing to back down on hard-line stances taken by the Trump administration. Nor have the Chinese shown any sign the battle is over. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on foreign policy at the State Department in Washington. The United States and China will face a new test in their increasingly troubled relations when top officials from both countries meet in Alaska. The Biden administration has yet to signal it’s ready or willing to back down on hard-line stances taken by the Trump administration. Nor have the Chinese shown any sign the battle is over. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool)

Troubled US-China ties face new test in Alaska meeting

The stage is set for a contentious first face-to-face meeting.

By Matthew Lee

AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON — The United States and China will face a new test in their increasingly troubled relations when top officials from both countries meet in Alaska on Thursday.

Ties between the world’s two largest economies have been torn for years, and the Biden administration has yet to signal it’s ready or willing to back down on the hard-line stances taken under President Donald Trump. Nor has China signaled it’s prepared to ease the pressure it has brought to bear.

Thus, the stage is set for a contentious first face-to-face meeting, and no agreements are expected.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet China’s top two diplomats, State Councilor Wang Yi and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi, in Alaska. Difficult discussions are anticipated over trade, human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong, China’s western Xinjiang region, Taiwan, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are clear-eyed about Beijing’s consistent failure to uphold its commitments, and we spoke about how Beijing’s aggressive and authoritarian behavior are challenging the stability, security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region,” Blinken said in South Korea before flying to Anchorage.

China fired back.

“There’s no room for China to compromise on issues related to sovereign security and core interests, and its determination and will to safeguard its core interests is unwavering,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday.

Blinken will attend the meeting having just come from Japan and South Korea, where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were promoting the Biden administration’s commitment to its treaty allies in Asia.

Just a day before the meeting, Blinken announced new sanctions on officials over China’s crackdown on pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong. In response, the Chinese stepped up their rhetoric opposing U.S. interference in domestic affairs.

China slammed the U.S. criticism of the move to give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, which reduces the proportion of those directly elected and ensures that only those determined to be truly loyal to Beijing are allowed to run for office — effectively shutting opposition figures out of the political process.

The White House set low expectations for Blinken and Sullivan’s meeting, which officials say will be an initial opportunity to address intense disagreements.

A senior administration official described the talks as a chance for the two sides for “taking stock” in the relationship. The official said the two sides would not deliver a joint statement following the meeting, and no major announcements are expected to come out of the talks.

China’s ambassador to the U.S. also downplayed expectations for the Alaska meeting in comments to Chinese media on Wednesday, while holding out hopes it would pave the way for better communication.

“Naturally, we don’t expect one round of dialogue will resolve all the issues between China and the U.S. and we don’t hold overly high hopes,” Cui Tiankai said in a transcript of his comments posted on the embassy’s website.

“My wish is that this can be a start and that the two sides can begin a dialogue process that is candid, constructive and realistic,” Cui said. “If we can achieve that, I think this exchange will be successful.”

Blinken said the U.S. “will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”

“The relationship with China is a very complex one,” he said. “It has adversarial aspects; it has competitive aspects; it has cooperative aspects. But the common denominator in dealing with each of those is to make sure we’re approaching China from a position of strength, and that strength starts with our alliance, with our solidarity, because it’s really a unique asset that we have and China doesn’t.”

[Opinion: Secretary Blinken, protect Alaska’s fisheries]

Yet the Chinese are not backing down.

On Wednesday at the United Nations, they blasted the U.S. human rights record, citing what they called U.S. failures against COVID-19 that cost “hundreds of thousands of lives,” as well as racial discrimination, police brutality and an “evil past of genocide.” Jiang Duan, a counselor at the Chinese mission in Geneva, voiced the criticism at the end of an examination of the U.S. rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The administration has held a series of talks with Pacific allies, including Biden’s virtual summit with the leaders of the Quad — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — before engaging in the high-level talks with China.

Trump had taken pride in forging what he saw as a strong relationship with Xi Jinping. But the relationship disintegrated after the coronavirus pandemic spread from the Wuhan province across the globe and unleashed a public health and economic disaster.

In addition to pushing back on China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific and its human rights record, Biden faces other thorny issues in the relationship.

But so far, he’s declined to rescind hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs imposed by Trump against China or to lift bans on Chinese apps.

Biden is, however, looking for China’s cooperation on pressing North Korea’s Kim Jong Un over his nation’s nuclear program.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

j
Sniffen indicted on sexual abuse counts

Sniffen will be arraigned Monday.

In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Oil price drop endangers plan to fund Alaska schools a year early

If oil prices fall, amount is automatically reduced to an amount the state can afford. At

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau Police Department announces technology and reporting updates

Emergeny services and direct reporting will not be interrupted

Most Read