The U.S. took a harsh stance on China’s self-seeking behavior, and it did that not alone but in close cooperation with its allies. The recent U.S.-China meeting clearly showed what kind of China policy the Biden administration will pursue.
The first in-person meeting between the top U.S. and Chinese diplomats saw U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo, engage in talks for two days in Anchorage, Alaska.
The U.S. raised various issues, including China’s human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the suppression of pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, the Taiwan situation, and cyberattacks, and the U.S. recognized that the various concerns have not been resolved.
China pushed back on the U.S. allegation that China’s treatment of Uyghurs is “genocide,” saying such characterization is “the biggest lie of the century.”
China said that the Taiwan issue is “related to core interests, and there is no room for compromise or concessions,” and it demanded that the change in Hong Kong’s electoral system be respected because it involves “a region of China.”
It is no surprise that the U.S. and Chinese representatives exchanged barbs for more than an hour at the beginning of the meeting as they were talking at cross-purposes. The United States deserves high marks for its efforts to coordinate with its allies in dealing with China ahead of the talks where it conveyed the “global community’s concerns” and pressed Beijing to rectify its behavior.
Prior to the meeting, State Secretary Blinken visited Japan and South Korea with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and they held a Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting with their counterparts in each country.
At the Japan-U.S. 2+2 meeting on March 16 and at the quadrilateral online summit meeting with Australia and India on March 12, Japan and the United States shared concerns about the threat of China and expressed their determination to keep China in check.
It should be noted that Secretary Blinken drew on his Japan and ROK visits in his meeting with China and said, “Since becoming Secretary of State, I have spoken to nearly a hundred counterparts from around the world, and what I’m hearing is very different from what you described.”
The Biden administration’s decision to select Alaska as the venue for dialogue instead of sending the U.S. delegation to Beijing or inviting the Chinese officials to Washington must have been intended as a message that the United States will not come to the negotiating table readily.
However, such posturing alone will not prompt China to alter its behavior. It is important for the United States to share the results of the meeting with its allies and enhance coordination to figure out the next steps.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s visit to the United States next month will be President Joe Biden’s first face-to-face summit meeting. As a partner of the U.S. administration’s China policy, Japan also needs to be prepared and to act. Japan should criticize China in a clear way, especially regarding human rights issues.