China, Russia Huddle After Tense Talks in Alaska and Biden’s Slam on Putin

By Patrick Goodenough | March 23, 2021 | 4:47am EDT
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during a previous meeting.  (Photo by Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during a previous meeting. (Photo by Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

( – The Chinese government insisted Monday that talks now underway between the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers did “not target any specific country,” but also drew a clear distinction between the strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow and what China calls the “hegemony and bullying” of the United States.

Two days of discussions in the southern Chinese city of Guilin between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, come after Wang and the top Chinese Communist Party’s top foreign affairs official, Yang Jiechi, met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Alaska for the first face-to-face U.S.-China interaction of the Biden administration.

The opening public segment of the meeting in Anchorage was marked by strong rhetoric and posturing, although both sides said later the behind-closed-doors talks were “substantive.”

“We expected tough and direct talks with the [People’s Republic of China] on a wide range of issues, and that’s exactly what happened,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. “And I know there has been a lot of focus on some of the public theatrics or, you know, more dramatic public piece, but I can assure you from talking to our national security team that it was a substantive meeting.” 

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday the Alaska talks had been “candid, in-depth, long and constructive,” and that the U.S. side now “understands more clearly” China’s “firm position on issues concerning its sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Last week also saw an uptick in U.S.-Russia tensions, after President Biden portrayed his Russian counterpart as a “killer,” attracting sharp criticism from the Kremlin, and prompting President Vladimir Putin to challenge Biden to take part in an urgent livestreamed discussion.

The administration did not take up the invitation, and Russia’s foreign ministry in a statement Monday expressed regret, saying “one more opportunity has been missed to find a way out of the deadlock in Russian-U.S. relations created through the fault of Washington.”

Lavrov in an interview with Chinese media outlets on Monday accused the U.S. and Western allies of standing in the way of the “rise of a truly multipolar democratic world.”

Those countries, he said, wanted to “preserve their domination of the global economy and international politics at all costs and to force their will and their demands on each and all.”

“In response to this, Russia and China are promoting a constructive unification agenda,” Lavrov said, describing China as “a truly strategic partner and a like-minded country for us.”

Adding to the ill-will, Blinken on Monday announced sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang province, “in response to serious human rights abuse against members of ethnic and religious minority groups.” Britain, Canada, and the European Union took similar actions in a coordinated move.

Russia is also targeted by U.S. and European sanctions, over Ukraine and the persecution of Putin critic Alexei Navalny among other things. Lavrov in the interview accused Western nations of having “largely lost the skill of classical diplomacy,” saying they use the language of ultimatums, and when other countries refuse to comply with their demands they resort to sanctions.

“It all started with President Obama and lasted during President Trump’s four years in office. We are witnessing the same ‘instincts’ in the new U.S. administration.”

Hua, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said that “the more turbulent the world is, the more determined China and Russia will be to continue cooperation.”

“For the longest time, Western countries such as the United States wantonly interfered in the internal affairs of other countries, under the pretext of so-called democracy and human rights. They have made enough troubles and some have even caused wars,” she said. “China and Russia always stand together in close cooperation, firmly reject hegemony and bullying practice and have become a major force for world peace and stability.”

Despite those comments, Hua sought to play down the notion that the Lavrov-Wang talks were intended to show a united front after the Alaska meetings.

“The growth of bilateral ties between China and Russia does not target any specific country,” she said. “Our relationship is above-board, in contrast to certain countries that seek small clique with [a] hidden or even obvious agenda.”

The Biden administration is also consulting with allies following the Alaska encounter.

On Tuesday, Blinken will join other NATO foreign ministers for a summit in Brussels, and a day later will hold bilateral talks with E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Russia is a fixture on NATO’s agenda, but according to a State Department spokesperson China too will feature at the ministerial – specifically, “the risks China presents to our shared security interests, our democracies, and to the rules-based international order.”

“NATO leaders are actively considering the security implications of China’s aggressive and coercive behavior,” the department said. “Beijing is investing in infrastructure in Europe, while at the same time building up its military and expanding its footprint in cyberspace, the Arctic, and in areas that directly affect Transatlantic security, including the Middle East and Africa.”

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