Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday previewed a high-profile meeting with his Chinese counterparts to take place in Anchorage, Alaska, next week at a time of unprecedented tensions between the two world powers.
“This is an important opportunity for us to lay out in very frank terms the many concerns we have with Beijing’s actions and behavior that are challenging the security, prosperity and values of the U.S. and our allies,” the chief diplomat told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday afternoon, moments after the White House announced that the meeting would take place.
The meeting, which will include China’s Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi, is set to take place at the end of Blinken’s trip to Japan and South Korea alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which will begin on Sunday. National security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet them in Anchorage.
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And it serves as perhaps the most significant foreign relations salvo yet of Joe Biden’s 50-day tenure as president, as his administration seeks to address the most critical issues facing the U.S. that are often closely tied to China. The meetings will certainly focus on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing’s systematic theft of intellectual property from U.S. businesses and federal departments and China’s provocative militarism in recent months.
Blinken said Wednesday that no follow-on meetings have yet been planned and the pending summit is not what he called “a strategic dialogue.” Any future in-person meetings will be based on whether the Biden administration sees “tangible outcomes with concern to China.”
The last administration made containing China a key pillar of its foreign policy. President Donald Trump focused particularly in the final year of his tenure on deferring blame to China for the domestic fallout from the spread of the coronavirus – an abrupt break from the close personal relations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping he had previously touted as a key to new potential agreements with the world’s second-largest economy.
Relations have deteriorated rapidly in recent months, with particularly prickly language this week following an assessment from Navy Adm. Phil Davison, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, to Congress on Monday that Beijing may attempt to annex Taiwan within six years.
A spokesman for China’s military said at an annual joint government meeting on Sunday that Beijing has issued new signals of its intent to “reunify” the mainland with Taiwan – which it considers a renegade province, not a sovereign nation – and that it “will never promise to abandon the use of force” to achieve that goal. A spokesperson for its Foreign Ministry called Davidson’s assessment part of broader “excuses for [the] U.S. to increase its military spending and interfere in regional affairs.”
Speaking before the House committee, Blinken said he has no plans to offer any concessions to the Chinese.
“When it comes to China or any other country, our job is to make sure we’re advancing the interests of the United States and the values of the United States,” Blinken said. “I see this as, in many ways, the most consequential relationship we have in the world. And China equally has an ability – militarily, economically, diplomatically – to undermine the international rules-based system the U.S. has dedicated so much to building.”