The first summit between American and Chinese diplomacy after Joe Biden took office in January, ended this Friday (19) in Anchorage, Alaska, on a much softer tone than his explosive departure.
It was a test of strength, in which the new China championed by Xi Jinping faced off against Biden’s United States, still seeking to modulate its place in the world after Donald Trump’s turbulent years in the White House.
Letters of a tough game have been opened for the rival and for the internal public, which will not complain about the performance of their representatives.
But at least there was talk, something that was forbidden by the intensification of Cold War 2.0 promoted in every possible area by Trump.
The US delegation, led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, spoke to reporters after the two-day talks ended.
“We expected direct and difficult conversations on a wide range of topics, and that’s exactly what we got,” Sullivan said shortly after the Chinese left, without granting interviews.
By his side, Blinken said there had been no surprise to the reaction of the Beijing duo, Chancellor Wang Yi and Communist Party chief diplomat Yang Jeichi.
The secretary of state said that despite obvious disagreements on issues such as freedom in Hong Kong, the status of Taiwan and the treatment of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province, common issues have been addressed: change climate, Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran.
Any progress in these areas, in particular the climate, would be a good start. Significantly, the handling of the pandemic that has so divided countries has not been mentioned.
The Chinese point of view, less detailed on Friday, emerged through an unorthodox medium: the publications on Twitter, banned in China, of quotes from its envoys in Alaska collected by the international national television channel CGTN.
According to them, Wang said that “sovereignty is a matter of principle and the United States should not underestimate China’s determination to defend it.”
All right, on time. Yang went further, repeating the light part of Thursday’s discussion (18): “Both sides must follow the non-confrontation police to guide our path to a healthy and stable course ahead.”
The comments were to be repeated in Chinese media early Saturday morning, thanks to the time zone.
In any case, even because they took place behind closed doors at the Captain Cook Hotel, the conversations this Friday seem to have been less harsh than those of the day before.
There was a lot of confusion in the protocol. The Chinese were offended by the American preparations for the meeting: a day earlier, the United States had imposed sanctions on 24 Chinese officials because of the continued crackdown on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong.
In Yang’s words, it was rude to the guests, who didn’t even stay for dinner with the guests. The time of Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong sharing the table is distant.
The opening by the American duo was a sight little seen in diplomacy: both spoke clearly about the points which are bothering the United States, which would be detailed below.
The Chinese responded with very strong rhetoric, in which even the Black Lives Matter movement was mentioned to pique the Americans. They were accused behind the scenes duly ventilated to the press of arrogance.
Nothing that hasn’t happened side by side before, but sitting face to face and with reporters present, it was unheard of. Subsequent reports spoke of four hours of frank conversation, but in a more relaxed tone.
It reinforces the idea that everyone has played for an audience interested in how the knot that Biden called the main geopolitical dispute of the 21st century will be undone, without any rhetorical exaggeration when you see what is at stake.
For decades, the Chinese diplomatic tradition has been a tradition of prudence and observation. Xi, who took over in 2012 and has only developed his powers since, introduced the concept of “wolf warriors,” diplomats with very sharp visions and unafraid to speak out.
One of the most notorious specimens of the species is found here in Brazil, along with Yang Wanming and his direct clashes with the children of President Jair Bolsonaro, which cost a lot of telephone diplomacy to overcome.
At the recent National People’s Congress annual meeting in Beijing, Xi said in a side session that the world should get used to “the new China,” finally freeing the bondage that marked centuries before. the rise of its version as a communist dictatorship.
Anchorage has proven it will push the rhetoric forward, testing the West’s appetite to question the regime’s autocratic values and its crackdown on dissent, which comes up against the economic interdependence between China and the world.
Hong Kong, which has received billions of dollars in investment from Chinese listed companies, is a good example of these fundamental contradictions.
For Team Biden, the match may also have been won, despite the verbal blows.
At the start of his term, the Democrat wants to take away the hesitant insult imposed on him by Trump. Not by chance, that same week he called Russian President Vladimir Putin nothing less than a murderer on television.
Along with the Chinese, by creating an atmosphere of animosity at the reception in the freezing cold of Alaska, Biden established his position. Whether he will be able to maintain it, and for how long, is an open question.
As expected, there weren’t exactly big breakthroughs in the reunion, but opening such explicit letters at a table accustomed to bluffs seems to set a new, more open setting in relationships.
Which, it should be noted, are placed as such. During the Trump years, the peddler’s aggressiveness, aimed at extracting benefits from interminable trade negotiations, has led nowhere except the risk of accidental conflict in a corner of the South China Sea. .
This danger is perhaps even more present with Biden’s insistence on maintaining a policy of confrontation, even for, according to Blinken this Friday, “to defend the interests of the American worker” threatened by his rival.
Either way, something started to move. For the best or for the worst.