President Biden wants to forge an “alliance of democracies.” China wants to make clear that it has alliances of its own.
Only days after a rancorous encounter with American officials in Alaska, China’s foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart last week to denounce Western meddling and sanctions.
He then headed to the Middle East to visit traditional American allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as Iran, where he signed a sweeping investment agreement on Saturday. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, reached out to Colombia one day and pledged support for North Korea on another.
Although officials denied the timing was intentional, the message clearly was. China hopes to position itself as the main challenger to an international order, led by the United States, that is generally guided by principles of democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to rule of law.
John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, said of China’s strategy.
As result, the world is increasingly dividing into distinct if not purely ideological camps, with both China and the United States hoping to lure supporters.
geopolitical competition between models of governance. He compared Mr. Xi to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, “who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function” in “an ever-complex world.”
He later called the challenge “a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.”
declared a genocide.
quashing of dissent in Hong Kong, from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, though a Saudi statement did not mention Xinjiang.
China’s most striking alignment is with Russia, where Mr. Putin has long complained about American hegemony and its use — abuse, in his view — of the global financial system as an instrument of foreign policy.
The Russian foreign minister arrived in China last Monday railing about American sanctions and saying the world needed to reduce its reliance on the U.S. dollar.
China and Russia have drawn closer especially since Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was met with international outrage and Western penalties. While the possibility of a formal alliance remains remote, the countries’ diplomatic and economic ties have deepened in common cause against the United States. So have strategic ties. The People’s Liberation Army and the Russian military now routinely hold exercises together and have twice conducted joint air patrols along Japan’s coast, most recently in December.
The two countries announced this month that they would build a research station on the moon together, setting the stage for competing space programs, one led by China and the other by the United States.
“The latest steps and gestures by the Biden administration, seen as hostile and insulting by the Russian and Chinese leaders, have predictably pushed Moscow and Beijing even deeper into a mutual embrace,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor of international studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia.
report on human rights in the United States on Wednesday, using as an epigraph George Floyd’s plea to the police,“I can’t breathe.”
“The United States should lower the tone of democracy and human rights and talk more about cooperation in global affairs,” Yuan Peng, president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government think tank, wrote the same day.
From that perspective, Mr. Xi’s outreach to North Korea and Mr. Wang’s visit to Iran could signal China’s interest in working with the United States to resolve disputes over those two countries’ nuclear programs.
Mr. Biden’s administration may be open to that. After the Alaska meetings, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned both as potential areas where “our interests intersect” with China’s.
sealed trade and investment agreements, including one with the European Union, hoping to box out Mr. Biden.
It didn’t work. The first results of Mr. Biden’s strategy emerged last week, when the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union jointly announced sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang. China’s condemnation was swift.
“The era when it was possible to make up a story and concoct lies to wantonly meddle in Chinese domestic affairs is past and will not come back,” Mr. Wang said.
China retaliated with sanctions of its own against elected officials and scholars in the European Union and Britain. Similar penalties followed Saturday on Canadians and Americans, including top officials at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body that held a hearing this month on forced labor in Xinjiang. All affected will be barred from traveling to China or conducting business with Chinese companies or individuals.
Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels, said China’s sanctions on Europeans were an overreaction that would drive officialsinto an anti-China camp.
They could also jeopardize China’s investment deal with the European Union, as many of those penalized are members of the European Parliament, whose approval is required. So could new campaigns by Chinese consumers against major Western brands like H & M and Nike.
Until now, many European Union nations have not wanted to explicitly choose sides, eschewing the kind of bipolar ideological divisions seen during the Cold War, in part because of deepening economic ties with China.
With each new twist in relations, however, clearer camps are emerging. “The Chinese mirror all the time,” Ms. Fallon said. “They always accuse people of Cold War thinking because I think that’s really, deep down, how they think.”
Chris Buckley contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.
Iran and China signed a wide-ranging economic and security cooperation agreement, defying U.S. attempts to isolate Iran and advancing Tehran’s longstanding efforts to deepen diplomatic ties outside Western powers.
Foreign ministers Javad Zarif and Wang Yi signed on Saturday what both sides bill as a “strategic partnership” that will last for 25 years. The deal, which was five years in the making, was signed in Tehran.
Details about the agreement weren’t immediately published, but a draft of the agreement circulated last year included Chinese investments in projects ranging from nuclear energy, ports, railroads and other infrastructure to transfer of military technology and investment in Iran’s oil-and-gas industry.
In return for investments, China would receive steady supplies of Iranian oil, Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency said Saturday, adding that the two countries also agreed to establish an Iranian-Chinese bank. Such a bank could help Tehran evade U.S. sanctions that have effectively barred it from global banking systems.
“This cooperation is a basis for Iran and China to participate in major projects and infrastructure development,” including Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday ahead of the signing, referring to China’s vast global investment and development strategy.
China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy under a sweeping economic and security agreement signed on Saturday.
The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undercut American efforts to keep Iran isolated. But it was not immediately clear how much of the agreement can be implemented while the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear program remains unresolved.
President Biden has offered to resume negotiations with Iran over the 2015 nuclear accord that his predecessor, President Trump, abrogated three years after it was signed. But he says Iran must first commit to adhering to the terms of the agreement.
demanding that the United States act first to revive the deal it broke by lifting unilateral sanctions that have suffocated the Iranian economy. China was one of five world powers that, along with the U.S., signed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
draft obtained last year by The New York Times.
That draft detailed $400 billion of Chinese investments to be made in dozens of fields, including banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, health care and information technology, over the next 25 years. In exchange, China would receive a regular — and, according to an Iranian official and an oil trader, heavily discounted — supply of Iranian oil.
a 2016 visit — as a breakthrough. But it has been met with criticism inside Iran that the government could be giving too much away to China.
Hesamoddin Ashena, a top adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, called the deal “an example of a successful diplomacy” on Twitter, saying it was a sign of Iran’s power “to participate in coalitions, not to remain in isolation.” He called it “an important decree for long-term cooperation after long negotiations and joint work.”
A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, called the document a “complete road map” of relations for the next quarter century.
Mr. Wang has already visited Iran’s archrival, Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey, and is scheduled to go to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman in the days ahead. He has said that the region is at a crossroads and offered China’s help in resolving persistent disputes, including over Iran’s nuclear program.
China is even ready to play host to direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, hinting that American dominance in the region has hindered peace and development.
like Sri Lanka.
Supporters of the deal said that Iran had to be pragmatic and recognize China’s growing economic prominence.
accusations that the company was furtively trading with Iran in violation of those sanctions.
Ms. Hua, the foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing, emphasized that both countries needed to take steps to resolve the nuclear dispute.
“The pressing task is for the U.S. to take substantive measures to lift its unilateral sanctions on Iran and long-arm jurisdiction on third parties,” she said, “and for Iran to resume reciprocal compliance with its nuclear commitments in an effort to achieve an early harvest.”
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—High-level talks between the Biden administration and Beijing that veered into acrimony put the U.S.-China rivalry in sharp relief, complicating efforts by the two powers to erect guardrails and keep tensions from spiraling further.
The two-day meetings, which ended Friday, covered an array of issues that over the past year sent U.S.-China relations to their most unsteady point in decades: China’s clampdown on Hong Kong, repression of Muslims in Xinjiang and aggressive behavior with its neighbors. The two sides also explored some areas of hoped-for common ground.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters afterward that the governments “are fundamentally at odds” on issues such as Hong Kong and cyberattacks, though interests intersect on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and climate change.
“We were clear-eyed coming in, we’re clear-eyed coming out, and we will go back to Washington to take stock of where we are,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Yang Jiechi, China’s senior-most foreign-policy official, also noted “important disagreements” remained, and in remarks to Chinese state media suggested Beijing wouldn’t back down. “China will unswervingly defend its national sovereignty, security and development interests. China’s development and strengthening is unstoppable,” said Mr. Yang.
The talks were the first under the Biden administration and tested its strategy to compartmentalize the countries’ relationship into what Mr. Blinken said are competitive, collaborative and adversarial components.
To that end, in the week ahead of the talks, the Biden administration rallied support among allies in Asia and imposed sanctions on senior Chinese legislators—moves that in part sparked Beijing’s anger as the talks opened Thursday.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Blinken launched into China’s cyberattacks, its threats against Taiwan and others, and its clampdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong as “threatening the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”
Mr. Yang, in turn, criticized the U.S. for undermining global stability by using force around the world, and he said the U.S. doesn’t serve as a model to others. He listed the U.S.’s problems with racism, mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement, and declining domestic confidence in U.S. democracy.
Although U.S. officials played down the public sparring, the divisiveness, on display in front of reporters, exposed a deepening distrust between the two governments that is likely to make cooperation more difficult.
“Anyone who was hoping there would be a significant de-escalation—largely people in the business community—can see that’s not going to be possible, at least in the near term,” said Allison Sherlock, a China analyst at the consultancy Eurasia Group.
On Friday in their last meeting, Messrs. Blinken and Sullivan and Mr. Yang and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gathered with a smaller group of aides to try to set up a way to manage difficulties ahead, officials said.
Foreign-policy specialists said the acrimony shows shifting perceptions that each has about the balance of power between the two nations, increasing the likelihood of miscalculation and conflicts over hot spots like control of critical technologies and China’s claims against Taiwan and Japan and in the South China Sea.
A new target is the U.S. electric-vehicle maker Tesla Inc. China’s government is restricting use of Tesla vehicles by members of the Chinese military and employees in sensitive posts in government and business, citing national-security concerns over data collected by the cars, according to people familiar with the effort.
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Both governments face pressing domestic issues, giving them reason to try to limit costly confrontation. President Biden has placed priority on reining in the pandemic and shoring up the recovery in the Covid-19-battered economy. In dealing with China, administration officials said it will band together with allies to give the U.S. what the White House on Thursday called “a place of strength.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping is also trying to bolster the Chinese economy, as he prepares for a pivotal period in his control over the Communist Party. He is expected to seek a third term as party leader next year and can ill afford a full-blown crisis with the U.S. in the run-up.
Still, he and other officials have in recent months played up perceptions that “the East is rising and the West is declining,” citing the Communist Party’s perceived superiority in governance.
Mr. Yang, a member of the party’s ruling body, channeled that sentiment in responding to Mr. Blinken on Thursday. “The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength,” Mr. Yang said. He accused the U.S. of being condescending and waved his finger at Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan.
Mr. Yang’s remarks drew plaudits in China, where they were circulated on social and mainstream media.
People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, posted a warning to the U.S. on several of its social-media accounts in English and Chinese, to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” and, echoing Mr. Yang, said: “The U.S. is not qualified to talk to China in such a condescending way.”
U.S. officials accused Mr. Yang of grandstanding for a domestic audience and said Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan continued to engage their Chinese interlocutors on substance.
“We will still have business to conduct,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, told reporters. “America’s approach will be undergirded by confidence in our dealing with Beijing.”
Still, the thrust of Mr. Yang’s remarks presages difficult dealings ahead, said Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, who advised the Trump administration on China.
“The tone seems to be different. Now China is not just equal to us, they are superior,” said Mr. Pillsbury. He said the U.S. needs to find more leverage over China.
A key part of the Biden strategy to compete with Beijing—working with U.S. allies—also angers Beijing, which sees the alliances as central to U.S.’s effort to constrain China’s ascent and limit its influence. Beijing has over the past year escalated tensions with U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia and other U.S. partners such as Taiwan and India, whose troops clashed with Chinese forces along their Himalayan border.
“China sees itself in an increasingly hostile global environment,” said Eurasia Group’s Ms. Sherlock. From that perspective, she said, Mr. Yang’s outburst Thursday served to make Beijing’s frustrations public. “It does represent a sharpening attitude for dealing with the U.S.,” she said.
—Liyan Qi and Alex Leary contributed to this article.
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The extraordinary rancor aired by China’s top diplomats in Alaska was a manifestation of a newly combative and unapologetic China, one increasingly unbowed by diplomatic pressure from American presidential administrations.
Just as American views on China have shifted after years of encouraging the country’s economic integration, so have Beijing’s perceptions of the United States and the privileged place in the world that it has long held. The Americans, in their view, no longer have an overwhelming reservoir of global influence, nor the power to wield it against China.
That has made China more confident than it once was in pursuing its aims openly and unabashedly — from human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang to the territorial disputes with India and Japan and others in South China Sea to, most contentiously of all, the fate of Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own.
While China still faces enormous challenges at home and around the world, its leaders now act as if history were on their side.
it fought Indian troops last year and menaced ships from several countries, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
new report on the issue, said on Thursday.
Meetings between the Chinese and the Americans have been testy before, but the balance of power between the two countries has changed.
For decades, China approached American governments from positions of weakness, economically and militarily. That forced it at times to accede to American demands, however grudgingly, whether it was to release detained human-rights advocates or to accept Washington’s conditions for joining the World Trade Organization.
China today feels far more assured in its ability to challenge the United States and push for its own vision of international cooperation. It is a confidence embraced by China’s leader since 2012, Xi Jinping, who has used the phrase, “the East is rising, and the West is declining.”
largely tamed at home, and the internal political divisions roiling the United States. Mr. Yang singled both out in his remarks on Thursday.
“The challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated,” Mr. Yang said, citing the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality. “It’s important that we manage our respective affairs well instead of deflecting the blame on somebody else in this world.”
intensifying punitive measures imposed by the Trump and, now, Biden administrations.
In the latest round, the State Department announced this week that it would impose sanctions on 24 Chinese officials for their role in eroding Hong Kong’s electoral system. The timing of the move, just as the Chinese were preparing to depart for Alaska, contributed to the acrimony.
“This is not supposed to be the way one welcomes his guests,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in remarks in Alaska that were equally pointed as Mr. Yang’s.
impervious to outrage over its actions, making the task all the more challenging.
new national security law to restrict dissent in Hong Kong did nothing to halt a new law this year dismantling the territory’s electoral system.
China also chose Friday to begin its trials of two Canadians who were arrested more than two years ago and charged with espionage in what was widely seen as retaliation for the American effort to extradite a senior executive from Huawei, the telecommunications giant, for fraud involving sales to Iran.
It was striking that Mr. Yang, a veteran diplomat and a member of the ruling Politburo of the Communist Party of China, used his remarks to say that neither the United States nor the West broadly had a monopoly on international public opinion.
That is a view reflected in China’s successful efforts to use international forums like the United Nations Human Rights Council to counter condemnation over policies like the mass detention and re-education programs in Xinjiang, the predominately Muslim region in western China.
“I don’t think the overwhelming majority of countries in the world would recognize that the universal values advocated by the United States or that the opinion of the United States could represent international public opinion,” Mr. Yang said. “And those countries would not recognize that the rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order.”
wrote approvingly under a video of Mr. Yang’s remarks.
While American officials said the temperature of the meetings in Alaska went down behind closed doors, few officials or experts on either side are hopeful of a significant improvement in relations. The talks are scheduled to continue for another round on Friday.
“On the whole, this negotiation is only for the two sides to put all the cards on the table, for the two sides to recognize how big and deep each other’s differences are,” said Wu Qiang, an independent political analyst in Beijing, “But in fact, it will not help to bring about any reconciliation or any mitigation.”
Chris Buckley in Sydney and Lara Jakes in Anchorage contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.
ANCHORAGE — Even before the Biden administration’s first face-to-face meeting with senior Chinese diplomats on Thursday, American officials predicted the discussions would not go well. They were right: The traditional few minutes of opening greetings and remarks dissolved into more than an hour of very public verbal jousting, confirming the expected confrontational tone between the geopolitical rivals.
U.S. officials said the two days of talks would continue, but immediately accused the Chinese delegation of violating the format for the sensitive discussions that had sought to find some common ground amid the many conflict points between them.
Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks and said the American delegation had no right to accuse Beijing of human rights abuses or give lectures on the merits of democracy.
At one point, he said the United States would do well to repair its own “deep seated” problems, specifically pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement against American racism. At another, after it looked as if the opening remarks had concluded and journalists were initially told to leave the room to let the deeper discussions begin, Mr. Yang accused the United States of being inconsistent in its championing of a free press.
new economic sanctions that were issued against 24 Chinese officials on the eve of the talks. “This is not supposed to be the way one should welcome his guests,” said the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi.
The sanctions punished Chinese officials whom the Biden administration said had undermined democracy in Hong Kong by rewriting the territory’s election laws and pushing the changes through its pliant Communist Party-controlled legislature. Biden administration officials had earlier said the sanctions were not deliberately timed to affect the talks in Anchorage.
But they clearly offended the Chinese diplomats, who seized on them as proof that the diplomatic overture was intended not to set ground rules for a bilateral understanding of each capital’s priorities, but to give the United States a home-turf platform for embarrassing Beijing.
The tit-for-tat, which a senior U.S. official described as “grandstanding” by the Chinese for their domestic audience, left little doubt that not much would be achieved from the diplomatic discussions. However, the official said later, the discussion cooled down after journalists left the room, and yielded a substantive conversation that lasted far longer than initially planned.
After an often-conflicting strategy for dealing with China over the past four years — which pit President Donald J. Trump’s desire for a trade deal against punishing Beijing for its rampant abuses of minority Uyghurs, military aggressions in regional waters and refusal to immediately address the coronavirus outbreak — the Biden administration has sought to take a new approach.
The new policy toward China is one based largely on competition — economic and diplomatic — but it is also prepared to alternately cooperate or confront Beijing when necessary. The talks in Anchorage were meant to set a baseline for that approach.
It is now unclear how much cooperation between the two nations will be possible, although that will be necessary to achieve a host of shared goals, including limiting Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s weapons systems.
Senior Biden administration officials had earlier joked that hopes of making much progress in the talks were so low that it would be more efficient for both sides to simply fax over their respective talking points.
The Biden administration has not exactly been rolling out the red carpet for this meeting. Yesterday it announced subpoenas against top Chinese companies suspected of threatening national security, and last week Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he believed the Chinese government was committing “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. What does this tell us about how the administration plans to approach diplomacy toward China?
It tells you that the Biden administration is, so far, sounding a lot tougher on China than many expected. That should be no surprise. While the Republican talking point during the campaign was that Biden would give away the store to the Chinese, the history of Biden and his top foreign policy aides, Blinken and Sullivan, suggests a very different approach. They are focused on the technological competition with China, the threat of continuing cyberattacks (and China is believed to be behind one of the biggest in recent weeks, aimed at Microsoft systems), and new forms of military competition.
As Sullivan pointed out in an essay published last year, it’s possible that China is looking to follow the American model from 130 years ago, building up its navy and expanding its reach, to push us farther and farther east in the Pacific. But it is equally possible that its strategy is to deploy its 5G networks around the world, make nations dependent on its aid, its infrastructure projects and its vaccines, and spread influence that way. Or it may try both. In any case, we now have a full-scope competitor — an economic and technological competitor and a military adversary.
The subpoenas that Biden’s Commerce Department served to the Chinese companies were sent out under a Trump administration policy, which allows the executive branch to intervene on sales of foreign-made communications equipment if national security is seen as at risk. Would you say U.S.-China relations represent a rare area in which Biden is not seeking a hard break from his predecessor’s policies?
Certainly the Biden team has not walked away from the instruments of power exercised by Trump; I think it realizes that Trump accurately identified the importance of addressing the China challenge. The Biden camp just believes he confronted it the wrong way. Trump thought he could ban Chinese technologies, and impose sanctions on the country until it came to the bargaining table.
But China is too big to sanction effectively. And at the end of the day, the U.S. has to innovate and produce competitive products. To the Biden team, that means we need our own answer to 5G networks, because right now there is no American-made alternative. It means we need to make advances in semiconductors and artificial intelligence, even if that requires some innovative, government-backed industrial policy.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The U.S. and China prepared to hold the first high-level in-person talks under the Biden administration, with U.S. officials setting a tough tone and rallying allies for leverage against Beijing.
The meeting here between the governments’ senior-most foreign policy officials will stretch over two days, starting Thursday. They will cover an array of friction points—from technology to China’s military muscle-flexing—that in the last year of the Trump administration sent relations between the two powers to their lowest point in decades.
Ahead of the talks, the Biden administration took steps that officials said underscore its intention to sustain a tough-minded approach to China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Japan and South Korea to display the strength of U.S. alliances and draw attention to what he called China’s “coercion and aggression” in the region.
The administration this week also sanctioned senior Chinese legislators for Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, and served subpoenas on Chinese companies over national security concerns.
“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 in Washington on Thursday.
China’s foreign ministry has accused the U.S. of spoiling the atmosphere for the talks. “The U.S. side has chosen to speak and act in ways that gravely disappoint China,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
During the talks, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party ruling body, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi plan to urge Mr. Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to roll back many of the punitive policies the Trump administration put in place on Chinese entities and individuals, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
Given the tensions, both sides have low-balled expectations for the meeting, with both agreeing on the importance of talking face-to-face and looking to stem a further deterioration in ties. The U.S. and Chinese senior officials don’t plan to release a joint statement following the talks, according to U.S. officials.
The last high-level in-person meeting took place more than eight months ago during the Trump administration, when conflict was spreading across the breadth of relations—on trade, technology, human rights, the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s aggressive actions toward Taiwan and other neighbors.
Relations have remained tense since, though Beijing has hoped that the Biden administration would prove more predictable, if not more manageable, than its predecessor.
At the least, Beijing has cast the meeting as a chance to dial down the rancor after the Trump administration’s efforts to curtail China’s global influence and portray the Communist Party as a threat to the rest of the world.
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“Even if we cannot work things out anytime soon, such exchange of views will help boost trust and dispel misgivings,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the Communist Party leadership’s No. 2 official, said at a news conference last week.
The Biden administration has portrayed the meeting as a venue to air divisive issues. On the U.S. list, according to a senior administration official, are China’s mass incarceration and surveillance of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, its clampdown in Hong Kong and the Chinese military’s stepped-up military activities around Taiwan—all issues Beijing has said are internal affairs that the U.S. should not meddle in.
Expectations, however, look mismatched on hoped-for outcomes. Beijing has billed the talks as a “high-level strategic dialogue,” a term applied to periodic discussions started under President George W. Bush, expanded under President Barack Obama and then scotched by President Donald Trump as a counterproductive talk shop in his view.
Messrs. Yang and Wang plan to propose a new framework for recurring, annual discussions between the governments on economic, security and other issues, according to the people with knowledge of the plans.
The Biden administration has preemptively said “no.” “This really is a one-off meeting,” a senior administration official told reporters this week. “This is not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.”
President Biden and his senior officials have said they will take a firm approach toward China, competing for global influence while cooperating on areas like climate change or the pandemic if it makes sense. A reliance on allies, as displayed on Mr. Blinken’s travels to Tokyo and Seoul along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, is central to the strategy.
Both Mr. Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are confronting domestic issues that give each a reason to limit confrontation, according to foreign policy specialists. Mr. Biden wants his administration to concentrate foremost on the pandemic and strengthening the economic recovery.
Meanwhile, the Republican opposition aims to elevate China as a critical policy issue to challenge Mr. Biden, and American public opinion about China has grown negative along with tensions between the governments.
Mr. Xi faces a pivotal phase in his nearly decadelong rule of the Communist Party. His leadership team is preparing to celebrate the party’s centenary in July, host the Winter Olympics early next year and consolidate China’s economic recovery ahead of a party congress later next year, when Mr. Xi is expected to seek a third term as leader.
While Mr. Xi and other officials have in recent months played up perceptions that “the East is rising and the West is declining,” citing the Communist Party’s perceived superiority in governance, they have also warned that the U.S. remains a potent long-term threat to Chinese interests and urged party members to be on guard.
“From China’s perspective, they really hope that China-U.S. relations can be reset, but from Biden’s perspective, there’s almost no possibility of this,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University.
Regardless of Beijing’s wishes, Mr. Trump brought lasting changes in how Washington deals with China, said Mr. Zhu: “Treating China as a major threat and rival is a matter of bipartisan consensus in the U.S.”
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Beijing plans to press Washington to reverse many of the policies targeting China introduced during the Trump presidency in the first face-to-face meeting of senior U.S. and China officials since President Biden’s election, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
The meeting in Alaska on Thursday gives both sides a chance to reset the stormy relationship between the world’s two largest economies, which are at loggerheads over technology development, human rights, trade and military leadership in Asia.
U.S. officials say the meeting is a way to present American complaints about Chinese actions, such as its curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong, naval expansion in the South China Sea, economic pressure on U.S. allies, intellectual-property violations and cybersecurity incursions. The U.S. also plans to sound out Chinese officials about ways the two countries could work together on issues such as climate change and global health.
China comes with a different agenda that has little overlap with Washington’s, a sign of how far apart the two sides are and how difficult it will be to repair the relationship.
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Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party ruling body, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi plan to urge Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to drop sanctions and restrictions on Chinese entities and individuals put in place by the Trump administration, said the people with knowledge of the plans.
The Chinese officials also plan to propose re-establishing regular high-level meetings between the two sides and scheduling a virtual summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Mr. Biden in April during a global conference on climate change. The White House declined to comment on the prospect of such a meeting.
China’s broad agenda reflects a greater confidence by Beijing, which in the past has used high-level meetings mainly to react to U.S. initiatives. “China feels that it has the wind at its back, that the East is rising and the West is fading,” said Daniel Russel, a former Obama State Department official.
The measures China wants reversed include limits on American sales to Chinese firms such as its telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co. and chip maker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. ; visa restrictions on Communist Party members, Chinese students and state-media journalists; and closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston. Beijing has retaliated in kind, hitting American entities and individuals with similar penalties.
Should those restrictions be removed or relaxed, China would consider eliminating its own countermeasures, said the people with knowledge of the Chinese plans.
Messrs. Yang and Wang plan to propose a new framework for setting up recurring, annual meetings between the two powers to hash out differences in economic, trade, security and other areas. The so-called strategic dialogue format was put in place during the George W. Bush administration and continued through the Obama years, when Messrs. Blinken and Sullivan were top foreign-policy officials.
President Donald Trump abolished the mechanism because his advisers said that China used it to tie up the Americans in endless discussions. The Biden administration has shown no interest so far in re-establishing the talks.
A senior Biden administration official played down expectations that the Alaska meeting would lead to any agreement. The official described it as a one-off meeting that didn’t portend “the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.”
Beijing also may not expect any concrete results, said Mr. Russel, the former Obama official, who is now vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, a think tank. Rather, the Chinese “will attempt to gain a better understanding of where the Americans are thinking the relationship will go and what might be possible,” he said.
So far, the Biden administration has continued some of Mr. Trump’s policies, including on Tuesday expanding sanctions against Chinese officials who it says have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Commerce Department served subpoenas on multiple Chinese companies as part of the U.S. effort to target technology and services that could threaten national security.
Tariffs the Trump administration imposed on Chinese goods aren’t expected to be high on China’s agenda in Alaska, even though Mr. Wang, the foreign minister, in a February speech called for the removal of trade-related penalties.
China started reaching out to Biden aides late last year, though China’s Foreign Ministry said the suggestion for the Alaska meeting came from Washington. “The U.S. side proposed to hold this high-level strategic dialogue, which we think is meaningful,” the ministry told The Wall Street Journal. It didn’t elaborate further, but said, “We hope that the two sides can have a candid dialogue on issues of mutual concern.”
Chinese officials plan to propose using a virtual climate summit attended by global leaders on April 22, which is Earth Day, to schedule a meeting between Messrs. Xi and Biden, the people with knowledge of Beijing’s plans said. Both sides have indicated that they are willing to work together to fight global warming and other climate-related issues, though the U.S. is wary that China will try to use the climate issue to get the U.S. to back off in other areas.
The two leaders have spoken once since the U.S. presidential election, a session that lasted for two hours, according to Mr. Biden.
Chinese officials indicate that there is no room for compromise on sovereignty issues involving Hong Kong and Taiwan. Mr. Blinken, who will stop in Alaska on his way back from a trip to Japan and South Korea this week, fired salvos at China from Tokyo on Thursday over both issues.
China also plans to propose that both countries create a “vaccine passport” to verify proof of immunization, according to the people familiar with the plans. Chinese officials hope that can help facilitate travel between the two countries.
It could also help China get recognition for its homegrown vaccines. In recent days, some Chinese embassies have said they would facilitate visas for foreigners who have received Chinese vaccines.
Beijing’s broad agenda for the meeting shows the Chinese leadership’s increasing confidence in the party-state system. China’s economy has withstood a trade war with the Trump administration and has been rebounding strongly, helped by its early headway in reining in coronavirus infections. Mr. Xi, the most forceful Chinese leader in recent decades, is enjoying widespread support among the Chinese public, Chinese officials say.
Still, Beijing is eager to move past the turmoil in the U.S. relationship, which has taken a toll on business and investor confidence in the world’s second-largest economy.
The Biden team also feels that it is in a strong position, having passed a $1.9 trillion economic relief package and having started to work with allies on China and other economic issues, the senior Biden administration official said.
The symbolism of the meeting is important, said the official, who noted the importance of having both the secretary of state and the national security adviser represent the U.S. In the past, China has tried to capitalize on splits among American representatives, the official said.
Having Messrs. Blinken and Sullivan at the session will make clear, the official said, “there is not going to be daylight and that the games that China has played in the past, to divide us, or attempt to divide us, are simply not going to work here.”
The U.S. side plans to address the economic pressure China has placed on Australia by curtailing imports after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman this week blamed the tension on “Australia’s wrong words and deeds on issues concerning China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”
The session will help each side better understand the other, said the senior Biden administration official. “It’s about communicating the areas where we intend to take steps, and it’s about understanding where our Chinese interlocutors are at,” the official said.
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Such remarks have heartened traditional American allies and stirred anger in China, which has repeatedly called on the United States to abandon a confrontational approach. Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Mr. Blinken are scheduled to meet the top Chinese diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, in Alaska beginning on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, accused the United States of a “zero-sum mind-set” that was “doomed to end in the dustbin of history.”
“Those wearing colored lenses can easily lose sight of the right direction, and those entrenched in the Cold War mentality will bring harm to others and themselves,” Mr. Zhao said on Monday.
The United States has imposed sanctions against Chinese officials before under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Trump last year. Among other things, it authorizes the State Department to restrict designated officials from using American financial institutions.
Wang Chen, a veteran party leader who led the legislative changes adopted last week, is the most senior Chinese official targeted so far. The Trump administration previously imposed the sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, the police chief and the justice secretary.
The ultimate impact on Chinese behavior has, so far, been minimal, but the latest designations significantly expand the number of officials targeted.
In all, the latest American sanctions would affect 14 vice chairmen of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which recently concluded its annual gathering in Beijing, and officials from the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Division, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Office for Safeguarding National Security.