Top foreign policy officials from the U.S. and China met in Anchorage, Alaska Thursday, the first in-person meeting between senior officials from the two countries since President Biden took office. But the summit turned cantankerous when China’s top diplomat criticized U.S. "human rights."
"We hope that United States will do better on human rights," Yang Jiechi said. "The fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the U.S. itself. In the United States in human rights are deep-seated, they did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter."
The hypocritical blow was not lost on U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who pointed to China’s human rights abuses committed in Hong Kong, Taiwan and against the Uighur Muslim populations in Xinjiang.
"Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability," Blinken told the Chinese officials. "That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today."
China's foreign affairs chief said these matters were "internal affairs" and condemned the U.S.’s staunch criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
"China has made steady progress in human rights," Yang said in a surprising counter to the international community’s attempts to pressure the CCP into reversing their reported abuses.
Though the two nations were expected to discuss tough issues like the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical challenges testing the two nations, the contentious tone suggested internal discussions were not running smoothly.
Yang criticized the U.S. prioritization of National Security and alleged this was the reason the two nations have hit "unprecedented difficulty" in furthering their trade partnership, which "has damaged the interests of our two peoples."
"We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world," China’s top diplomat said Thursday. "Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States."
But Blinken pushed back on these heated remarks, saying that his impression of China’s neighboring countries was actually contrary to Yang’s position, following his recent trip to Japan and South Korea.
"I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re re-engaged," Blinken retorted. "I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking."
The secretary of state rejected the Chinese officials' attidudes, and accused them of "grandstanding" and prioritizing "dramatics over substance."
The two nations will meet again Friday for another day of discussions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.