Jul 26, 2021 - World

China blames U.S. for "stalemate" in first high-level meeting since Alaska

Xie Feng

Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng. Photo: Li Zhihua/China News Service via Getty Images

China's vice foreign minister lashed out at the U.S. during the visit of the State Department's No. 2 diplomat on Monday, accusing the Biden administration of "demonizing" Beijing as an "imagined enemy," according to remarks released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Why it matters: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman became the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit China when she met her counterpart Xie Feng in Tianjin.

Driving the news: Like the first high-level U.S.-China meeting in Alaska in March, the talks quickly turned confrontational — a sign that tensions between the world's two largest economies are unlikely to abate, despite the diplomatic outreach.

  • The Biden administration has sought to rally a global coalition of allies to confront China over its human rights and economic abuses, while also seeking to cooperate with Beijing on issues like climate change.
  • Chinese diplomats presented Sherman with a host of demands, including the revocation of sanctions, visa restrictions and the U.S. extradition request for Huawai CFO Meng Wanzhou, according to state media.
  • Xie also reiterated China's insistence that the U.S. cease its criticism of the crackdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, which Beijing has characterized as "interference" in domestic affairs.

What they're saying: "The Chinese people look at things with eyes wide open,” Xie said. "They see the competitive, collaborative and adversarial rhetoric as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China."

  • China feels "that the real emphasis is on the adversarial aspect; the collaborative aspect is just an expediency,” Xie told Sherman, according to the Foreign Ministry's summary.
  • "The hope may be that by demonizing China, the U.S. could somehow shift domestic public discontent over political, economic and social issues and blame China for its own structural problems," Xie said. "It seems that a whole-of-government and whole-of-society campaign is being waged to bring China down."

The other side: In addition to raising the issue of China's human rights abuses, Sherman voiced concerns about the massive cyberattacks carried out by Chinese state-backed actors, as well as the Chinese military's aggression in the South China Sea, according to a State Department readout.

What to watch: Also this week, Secretary of State Blinken travels to India, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin becomes the first member of Biden's Cabinet to visit Southeast Asia.

  • Austin, in a keynote speech in Singapore tomorrow and in meetings in Vietnam and the Philippines, "will call out aggressive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea," Reuters reports.
  • The visits come ahead of a potential in-person meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, possibly at the G20 summit in October.
Go deeper