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President Biden on Friday said he’s “proud” of Secretary of State Tony Blinken after the top diplomat sat through an anti-American tirade from Chinese officials at a summit in Alaska.
“I’m very proud of the secretary of state,” Biden told reporters on the White House lawn after the unexpected lashing Thursday from Communist diplomats who mocked Biden’s claim to be operating from a “position of strength” to Blinken’s face on US soil.
The shocking attack on the United States from China contrasted with familiar US criticism of China, including on human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi lectured Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on what he said was US hypocrisy.
“The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength,” Yang said through a translator at the summit in Anchorage.
“Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States,” said Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
“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.”
Sullivan twice attempted to promote what he called the “secret sauce” of US democracy, including an ability to “look hard at its own shortcomings.”
“The other secret sauce of America is that our people are a problem-solving people, and we believe we solve problems best when we work together with allies and partners around the world,” Sullivan said.
The Chinese Communist Party team bluntly rebuffed US criticism for their elimination last year of Hong Kong’s political autonomy and alleged abuse of Uighur Muslims.
Yang said, “the US has American-style democracy and China has Chinese-style democracy. It is not just up to the US, but also the world to evaluate how the US has done in advancing its own democracy.”
Yang chided what he described as US hypocrisy on human rights as well as cybersecurity in an apparent nod to the Trump administration campaign against Chinese telecom firm Huawei over security concerns.
Yang accused the US of being a “champion” of cyberattacks and invoked the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We hope that the United States will do better on human rights. China has made steady progress in human rights. And the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the US itself,” Yang said.
“The United States has also said that countries can’t rely on force in today’s world to resolve the challenges we face. And it is a failure to use various means to topple the so-called ‘authoritarian’ states. And the challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated. They did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter. It did not come up only recently.”
The drubbing for Biden’s team, which appeared unprepared to counter the hostility, followed an introductory phone call last month between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Blinken insisted at the Anchorage meeting that the US wanted to “strengthen the rules based international order,” but struggled to find any traction.
Blinken responded to an initial round of attacks from the Chinese officials by saying, “given your extended remarks, permit me, please, to add just a few of my own before we get down to work.”
In his rebuttal, Blinken said “a hallmark of our leadership” is “our alliances and our partnerships that have been built on a totally voluntary basis. And it is something that President Biden is committed to reinvigorating.”
Blinken added, in a concession to Chinese criticism, that the US is “not perfect.”
“There’s one more hallmark of our leadership here at home, and that’s a constant quest to, as we say, form a more perfect union. And that quest, by definition, acknowledges our imperfections, acknowledges that we’re not perfect, we make mistakes, we have reversals, we take steps back,” Blinken said.
“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, not trying to sweep them under a rug. And sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but each and every time, we have come out stronger, better, more united as a country.”
The two-day summit in Alaska was billed by Washington as a chance to find middle ground after relations during the Trump administration sank to their lowest point in decades.
Blinken traveled to Japan and South Korea this week along with defense officials to bring attention to the strength of the US alliances in response to North Korea’s nuclear agenda and China’s “coercion and aggression” in the region.
“A big part of the strategy is approaching our relationship with China from a place of strength,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday.
Biden so far has kept many of former President Donald Trump’s policies toward China. He has not relaxed tariffs on Chinese goods or eased sanctions against officials.
Trump claimed during the presidential campaign that China would “own” the US if Biden won, in part because of his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China.
As president, Trump at first cultivated a relationship with Xi and joked that he would like to make himself “president for life” as the Communist leader had done.
But the bond soured with a trade war aimed at forcing a deal to reform economic policies. The Trump administration also worked to convince allies to ban Chinese telecom firm Huawei from 5G infrastructure projects over cybersecurity concerns.
US-China relations plunged last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump authorized sanctions against Chinese officials for eliminating Hong Kong’s political autonomy and for mistreating Uyghur Muslims. He vowed to “decouple” the US and China economically in response to deception in early data on COVID-19.
Trump last month bashed Biden for rejoining the World Health Organization without insisting that China pay a greater share of the WHO’s expenses. Trump exited the organization for accepting false Chinese data on COVID-19 before the virus spread.
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