News analysis

Contentious tone sets stage as US, China stake out positions on way forward

Challenge is in managing divergent views on issues, while staying open to cooperation

The US delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre) and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (right). Mr Blinken cited "deep concerns" about Chinese repression of Muslims in Xinjiang, erosion of democracy in Hong Kong and aggressiv
The Chinese delegation led by top diplomat Yang Jiechi (centre) and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (second from left) at the opening session of US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday. Mr Yang said that Beijing is firmly opposed to US interference in its internal affairs, and will take firm actions in response.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The US delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre) and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (right). Mr Blinken cited "deep concerns" about Chinese repression of Muslims in Xinjiang, erosion of democracy in Hong Kong and aggressiv
The US delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre) and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (right). Mr Blinken cited "deep concerns" about Chinese repression of Muslims in Xinjiang, erosion of democracy in Hong Kong and aggressive actions in the Taiwan Strait, among other issues. PHOTO: REUTERS

If Beijing went into its talks with the US in Anchorage, Alaska, seeking a reset in their relationship after years of fraught ties and a bruising trade war under the Trump administration, the hard line adopted by Biden administration officials in the opening minutes of their meeting quickly made it clear that was not going to happen.

There was remarkable continuity in the Trump administration's hardline approach to China in the envoys' first face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office in January.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2021, with the headline 'Contentious tone sets stage as US, China stake out positions on way forward'. Subscribe