When top Biden administration officials picked a venue to get their inaugural meeting with Chinese counterparts, they settled on snowy Anchorage.
But footage of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi on Thursday revealed an atmosphere that wasn’t so much cool as burning hot.
The Biden White House, it seems, has gotten its first real taste of China’s”wolf warrior” diplomacy.
After Blinken mentioned some of the problems Washington had with Beijing, such as”cyberattacks on the United States” and”economic coercion toward our allies,” Yang told him that the United States”can’t blame this problem on somebody else” — turning brief opening remarks into a 16-minute tirade.
For a high-level diplomatic assembly, it was remarkably undiplomatic, shattering any illusions of a reset in U.S.-China relations following the more aggressive U.S. policy during the Trump administration. Indeed, China’s diplomats seemed more forceful than they’d been in almost any public assembly during President Trump’s term, resulting in worry on either side about the condition of the connection.
In China’s Communist Party-controlled media, the blame for the demanding opening was put directly on the U.S.”China rarely uses harsh words, but [the] U.S. won’t get its way through blackmailing us,” read the headline on one English-language take from Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times, a Communist Party-controlled newspaper.
However, Chinese diplomacy is defined by unpleasant words. Over the Last Few years, the competitive tone Hu initiated at Global Times has been the signature at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The term”Wolf Warrior” is a nod to an ultrapatriotic 2015 film and its popular 2017 sequel. However, it came into popular use for a descriptor in 2019 when a senior Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, took to Twitter to feud with overseas critics. Shortly, other Chinese diplomats followed suit, frequently adopting his pugilistic tone.
Conflict with the Trump administration, especially over the coronavirus pandemic, amped up the rhetoric. Whenever the Trump White House floated theories about the origins of this virus, for instance, Zhao detained the U.S. military of bringing it into Wuhan.
Zhao’s Twitter antics came to epitomize a broader shift in how China participates with the rest of the planet. Last summer, for instance, China’s Wang Yi cautioned that Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil will”pay a heavy price” for making an official visit to Taiwan — comments seen in Europe as a pointedly direct threat.
Recently, remarks from China’s wolf warriors have performed the challenges facing democracies, particularly the United States — so it was Thursday in Alaska.
In his opening statements Thursday, Yang listed America’s human rights issues, referencing recent Black Lives Matters protests. “On human rights, we hope that the United States will do better on human rights,” he said. “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.”
After Blinken responded to defend the United States and White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan remarked to say it was not the time for”lectures or long, winding statements,” Yang called reporters back into the room to make a statement to say it had been the United States who’d broken diplomatic norms, not China.
“When I entered this room, I should have reminded the U.S. side of paying attention to its tone in our respective opening remarks, but I didn’t,” Yang explained. “The Chinese side felt compelled to make this speech because of the tone of the U.S. side.”
“So let me say here, that in front of the Chinese side the United States does not have the qualifications to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength,” Yang continued.
This record was updated.