Beijing has shrugged off attempts by the United States to rally support in Asia and demanded that it stop putting pressure on China ahead of high-level talks between their top diplomats.
Beijing and Washington laid out their expectations for the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday, with both stressing that compromise on key issues is unlikely.
Chinese diplomats said they did not have very high expectations for the talks, but expressed dismay at recent US attempts to build ties with Asian nations with China as a focus.
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“Some may think that before meeting with China, they should talk to other countries and make some noise,” said Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US, in an interview with Chinese media on Wednesday.
“Someone who walks at night alone can sing to embolden themselves, but it’s not useful.”
He said it was America’s “own business” whether to boost bilateral relations with other countries, but that such activities should not “target a third country or harm a third country’s interest”.
The talks – between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomats Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday and Friday – will be the first face-to-face meetings between senior officials from the two sides since US President Joe Biden took office in January. The Chinese delegation arrived in Alaska on Thursday afternoon.
The meeting in Anchorage takes place as the US strengthens ties with traditional allies and other democracies in the region. Last week, a virtual summit at the leader level was held for the first time between US, Japan, Australia and India under the banner of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. The Quad is expected to be a central pillar of Biden’s Indo-Pacific policy aimed at countering the influence of China.
The Quad summit was followed by Blinken’s visit to Japan and South Korea this week, resulting in a joint statement by Washington and Tokyo saying they were “committed to opposing [China’s] coercion and destabilising behaviour towards others in the region” and expressed “serious concerns” about autonomy in Hong Kong and human rights in Xinjiang.
Cui said China did not expect all problems between China and the US could be solved in one dialogue and that Beijing would not yield on Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.
“On these matters that involve China’s core interest, there is no room for giving in at all. This is also the attitude we will declare in the meeting,” Cui said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also said Beijing rejected US attempts to put pressure on China through boosting ties with American allies.
“It is useless to put pressure on China through engaging in ‘microphone diplomacy’,” Zhao said on Thursday.
Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said there would be limits to how far US allies could commit to the American stance when dealing with China.
“The competition between the US and China has gone beyond the bilateral level already,” Wang said. “It has escalated to global governance, and who can provide more public good, who is more popular in the international arena.
“Therefore, China was not afraid of [former US president] Donald Trump’s threats, or Biden’s ally systems, because in the end asking US allies to economically decouple from China is not possible, and the US knows this. This is why they have to go back to the table with China.”
Liu Weidong, a US affairs specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the best outcome for China from the Alaska meeting would be for both sides to illustrate their stance for mutual understanding. The worst scenario would be fierce disagreement at the meeting table.
“If one side drills and holds on to a certain conflict point – for example, on the US’ so-called human rights concerns in China – then the conversation could go beyond just stating their positions respectively,” Liu said.
“It’s not likely to happen, though, for the first meeting. As for what happens afterwards, both sides will probably issue their own statements and have different focuses and versions of what happened in the meeting, this has happened several times before,” Liu said.
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