The United States and China met in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday to air grievances, and the cameras were rolling. Vox’s Alex Ward explains how the meeting set the stage for one of the world’s biggest rivalries.
Publish Date: Mar 25, 2021
it's today, explained. I'm Sean remains firm. On Thursday, Chinese diplomats met with Biden diplomats for the first time in Anchorage, Alaska. Kind of like a first date. It was meant to be cordial. It ended up combustible. Two superpowers locking horns with the cameras rolling. Well, I'll continue the relationship metaphor. It's like two X's meeting after a really bad breakup. Alex Ward, one of the hosts of boxes. Worldly podcast. So you really had, with the cameras worrying you had the U. S side, which is Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. And they started off with two minutes each, basically saying like, Hey, China, you do some bad stuff in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, Economic coercion towards our allies, to which the Chinese went on a roughly 18 minute plus just lecture about what they did not like about American governance and foreign policy, such like, hey, you guys have racial issues. The challenges facing the U. S. And human rights are deep seated. They did not emerge over the past four years the slaughter of black people. The problem existed for a long time. You know we're not the country going around the world starting wars, and you know that last decades Hey, you guys have, you know, rampant economic inequality, And on top of that, your democracy isn't that great, You know, we're not gonna listen to you, you know, we're not going to join this rules based international order that America has been leading since World War Two. We would like a new form of international politics. So to give you a sense of, like, how far apart they were, they can't even agree on like how the world should run, let alone their own disagreements between the two countries. And this is a problem when you're considering. These are the two most important nations in the world the two biggest economies, the largest by population China and the third largest population in the United States to just huge players on the international stage. And if they can't even agree on how the world should run, in fact, that China may be trying to usher in a new global system. Let's say, Well, that is huge. And we found out because this was all being recorded, not only audio, as everyone just heard but video are these kinds of diplomatic meetings usually recorded and broadcast. So here's where I think there was a miscalculation on both sides. So usually when you have these diplomatic meetings, there can be what's called the camera spray like at the beginning, right? Or the opening remarks where they both say pro former things like, You know, we look forward to tense but constructive conversations, and then the cameras are ushered out of the room. And then the real talks begin. Where the miscalculation, at least some experts I talked to, you know what happened is the US again use that camera opportunity to kind of go forth and and get over it skis and say, You know pretty clearly what it didn't like about China, the weaker Muslim concentration camps. Our intent is to be directed about our concerns direct about our priorities, with the goal of a more clear eyed relationship between our countries moving forward. Thank you for being here, giving the Chinese the opportunity to respond, and they did, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, said. You don't welcome guests with sanctions, a reference to the blacklisting of 20 for Chinese and Hong Kong officials in the hours before the meeting. I mean, there was an agreement that each, you know, there was sort of a two by two meetings that each member would give two minutes for total. Well, just one member of the Chinese delegation, the top Chinese foreign affairs official, went on for roughly 18 minutes. And so that's what led to the other tense moment, which was as the cameras were being rushed out of the room. You had Tony Blinken and Sullivan basically saying, No, no, no, no, no, no. Stay here, Stay in the room, Hold on one second, please. And Blinken gave a rejoinder in which he was like, Look, we get it. There are problems with America. But what we've done throughout our history is to confront those challenges openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don't exist. I'm not trying to sweep them under a rug, and sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's ugly, but each and every time we've come out stronger, better, more united