Envoy realistic about prospects for Alaska meeting

March 18, 2021

China's top envoy to the US Cui Tiankai said he hopes the first high-level China-US diplomatic meeting of the Biden presidency will pave the way for a "candid" and "constructive" exchange between the two countries, but that it is an "illusion" to expect Beijing to cave in to pressure or compromise on core interests.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan are scheduled to meet Thursday through Friday in Anchorage, Alaska, with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, both Beijing and Washington have announced.

Ambassador Cui said both sides attach great importance to the first in-person dialogue this year at such a high level, for which China has made a lot of preparations.

"We certainly do not expect a single dialogue to resolve all the issues between China and the US; that's why we don't pin overly high expectations or have any illusions on it," Cui said on the eve of the meeting.

The ambassador said he believed the meeting would be a success if it helps kick off a process of candid, constructive and rational dialogue and communication between the two sides.

"I hope that both parties will come with sincerity and leave with a better understanding of each other," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Blinken, who would stop off in Alaska from a trip to Tokyo and Seoul said last week that the meeting would be "an important opportunity for us to lay out in very frank terms the many concerns" with Beijing.

"We'll also explore whether there are avenues for cooperation," he said in his first appearance before Congress since being confirmed as America's top diplomat.

Blinken also said that "there is no intent at this point for a series of follow-on engagements", and any engagement is contingent on "tangible outcomes" on the issues of concern with China.

Ambassador Cui said that the spirit of equality and mutual respect serves as the most basic prerequisite for dialogue between any countries.

With regard to China's core interests concerning its national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity, China has "no room" for compromise and concessions, he said, adding, "This is also the attitude we will make clear in this meeting.

"If they think China will compromise and give in under the pressure of other countries, or China wants to pursue the so-called ‘outcome' of this dialogue by accepting any unilateral request, I think they should give up this illusion, as this attitude will only lead the dialogue to a dead end," Cui said.

Asked if recent US actions, including Tuesday's US sanctions on Chinese officials related to Hong Kong, will affect the "atmosphere" of the Anchorage dialogue, Cui said China will take "necessary countermeasures".

"We will also express our position clearly in this meeting and will not make compromises and concessions on these issues in order to create a so-called ‘atmosphere'," he said. "We'll never do that!"

The meeting came about a month after what US media reports called "an unusually long two-hour call" between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During that phone call, Xi said the foreign affairs departments of the two countries may have in-depth communications on wide-ranging matters in the bilateral relationship and major international and regional issues.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said early on Wednesday that China hopes that, through this dialogue, the two sides can follow through on the consensus reached between the two presidents in their phone call, work in the same direction, manage differences and bring China-US relations back to "the right track of sound development".

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped for a "positive outcome" of the meeting, his spokesman said.

"We hope that China and the United States can find ways to collaborate on critical issues, notably on climate change, on rebuilding the post-COVID world," said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"We fully understand that there are tensions and outstanding issues between the two, but they should also both find ways to cooperate on the biggest global challenges that are before us," Dujarric added.

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Anchorage, Alaska | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-18 09:28