A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced on March 11th that Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Working Committee, and Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister, will hold a high-level strategic dialogue with their U.S. counterparts, Secretary of State Blinken and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Sullivan in Anchorage from March 18 to 19 at the invitation of the U.S. side. The announcement comes a day after the U.S. State Department made the same news. This will be the first face-to-face meeting between the top brass of the U.S. and China since President Biden took office. However, Blinken was still “showing toughness” when he testified before Congress on the 10th. Before this US- China meeting, Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Austin will visit Japan and South Korea, and U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a video summit of the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia on the 12th. RIA Novosti 11 said the U.S. is trying to pull its allies and partners into confrontation with China, but this is neither in the security interests of the region as a whole nor in the respective national interests of India, Japan and Australia.
China, U.S. shout at each other ahead of meeting
“China and the United States are about to hold their first high-level dialogue since Biden took office,” Yonhap News Agency said on Nov. 11, adding that the new Biden Administration has repeatedly made tough statements against China since taking office, and the outside world is highly concerned about what can be achieved in the high-level talks between China and the United States. The U.S. side is likely to step up its circumscribing of China on issues such as trade, human rights, technology, Taiwan and the South China Sea, while China will ask the U.S. not to interfere in China’s internal affairs and infringe upon its core interests. (At the same time), it is undeniable that after Biden came to power, he has repeatedly expressed his willingness to work hand in hand with China on climate change and infectious disease control, although he has pulled in allies to hold China at bay.
Blinken talked about some of his views on the upcoming high-level strategic dialogue between China and the U.S. in a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress on the 10th. He said, “This is an important opportunity for us to be very frank about our many concerns about Chinese actions that challenge U.S. security, prosperity and values”. The U.S. intends to raise many topics, and the talks will also explore whether there are avenues for cooperation with Beijing. Blinken also said the Biden Administration will take a tough diplomatic stance in discussions with China on issues such as human rights and that “the United States will not make concessions in other areas in order to gain room for cooperation with China”.
In response to Blinken’s statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on 11 November that China’s position on U.S.-China relations is clear. We ask the U.S. side to look at China and Sino-U.S. relations objectively and rationally, abandon the Cold War and zero-sum thinking, respect China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, focus on cooperation and management of differences in accordance with the spirit of the call between the two Heads of State, and promote the return of Sino-U.S. relations to the right track of healthy and stable development.
Yang Xiyu, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said in an interview with the Huan Qiu Shi Bao on the 11th November that although the two sides were not specific about the details of the talks, it is expected that China and the United States will further clarify the “general framework” of bilateral relations. Last July, Wang Yi suggested at a video forum of U.S. and Chinese think tanks that the two sides could work out a list of “cooperation,” “dialogue” and “managing” to clarify “matters that the two countries need and can cooperate on in bilateral and global affairs and which should not be disturbed by other issues”, “issues where differences exist but are expected to be resolved through dialogue”, and “difficult issues that are put aside and controlled because of difficulties in reaching agreement” respectively. According to Yang, the meeting was to clarify which “list” each issue in the U.S.-China relationship should be put on.
Why choose to meet in Alaska
Many media have paid close attention to why the venue of the high-level meeting between the U.S. and China is set in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. According to Yonhap News Agency, some people believe that the location is far away from the United States mainland, which is relatively neutral, because the symbolism is of China’s reluctance to make too many concessions to the U.S.
Analysts told the “Huan Qiu Shi Bao” reporter that compared to Washington, Alaska is a careful and prudent choice. In recent years, the political climate in Washington has become extremely unhealthy, especially in terms of its increasingly polarized policy toward China. Meeting with the Chinese side in Washington would have meant the Biden Administration would directly face many domestic pressures, and it would be difficult to make any breakthrough. As far as China is concerned, it might not have agreed to a meeting in Washington due to diplomatic reciprocity considerations,.
Yang Xiyu believes that Alaska is outside the U.S. mainland and less politically sensitive, which is a “prudent first step” for both sides in rebuilding U.S.-China relations; and Alaska is also a special place in the history of U.S.-China exchanges, as it was a stopover for refueling when there were no direct U.S.-China direct flights due to flight technology limitations. “For both sides, the choice of this location has both technical significance and political implications”.
“Meet each other half way, In the middle, taking one step forward at a time”. Sun Taiyi, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Christopher Newport University, analyzing the considerations behind the choice of the venue for the talks, told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao that he believes it will help the dialogue avoid the glare of the global media and to be held in a more low-key and cautious manner.
It is worth noting that the meeting was officially announced by the U.S. side first, but Blinken re-emphasized his tough stance on China before the meeting. White House Press Secretary Psaki also said at a press conference on the 10th, “It’s important to us that the first meeting between the U.S. government and Chinese officials is taking place on U.S. soil”. Some analysts say that the U.S. side’s “show of toughness” before the meeting, even deliberately emphasizing that “the meeting was being held on U.S. territory,” is obviously related to the internal pressure on China-related issues faced by the Biden Administration. These statements are to some extent for the U.S. domestic audience, but the felt need to emphasize that it will not be “soft” also shows, on the side, that U.S. self-confidence is declining.
“The U.S.-China relationship should be promoted despite the bumps in the road”
The U.S. side has been making a lot of diplomatic moves ahead of the high-level meeting between the U.S. and China. The State Department said Secretary of State John Blinken and Secretary of Defense John Austin will travel to Japan and South Korea to hold “2+2” talks with the two countries before the high-level U.S.-China meeting. White House spokesman Psaki stressed on the 10th that the high-level meeting between the U.S. and China is “following our meetings and close consultations with our allies and partners in Asia and Europe”. In addition, Biden will hold the first “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” video summit with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia on the 12th. According to the New York Times, the Quadripartite Dialogue is intended to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The report quoted U.S. officials as saying that a central element of the Summit will be an agreement to help India increase its production capacity for the new corona vaccine.
As for the U.S. wanting to pull allies and partners together against China, the Korea Daily of the 11th said it was “the U.S. wanting to bind its allies before the G2 holds a high-level dialogue. The report worries that the outside world is highly concerned about how this high-level contact between China and the United States will conclude, whether it will further intensify conflicts or lead to a breakthrough for the two countries to return to the right track.
An analyst told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao that the U.S. agreed to help India increase its vaccine production capacity, apparently as a favor to India for joining this “alliance” against China. He said that Italy and Australia have recently engaged in a fierce battle for vaccines due to the tight supply of vaccines. In such a situation, why would the U.S. not make an effort to increase its own vaccine production capacity and help India instead? In addition, South Africa even once wanted to “return” the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine. it is evident that people are still skeptical that Indian vaccines can really “counteract China” even with the help of the United States and others,.
The Russian Satellite News Agency said on the 11th that the different national interests of the United States, India, Japan and Australia determine that they cannot be monolithic. The Russian “Independence” quoted Maslov, acting director of the Far East Institute, as saying that the importance of Sino-US relations determines that high-level officials of both sides must meet. “I think the meeting will be held on the basis of both sides being interested”. Despite the tough stance of U.S. officials toward China, Chinese exports to the United States have soared in the past two months. At a time when the two economies need better relations, it is clearly unreasonable to further exacerbate the conflict.
According to the latest import and export data released by the General Administration of Customs on March 7, total trade between China and the U.S. rose 69.6 percent in the first two months of this year, and China’s surplus with the U.S. reached 334.41 billion yuan, up 88.2 percent. This shows the “urgent desire” of the United States for China. Premier Li Keqiang said at a press conference on the 11th that, Sino-US trade volume still reached 4.1 trillion yuan, an increase of 8.8%, despite the background of last year’s multiple shocks, and that “China-US relations should be promoted to take them forward beyond the bumps”.