Chinese put positive spin on Alaska summit with U.S.

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It featured a rancorous, barb-filled first act, but the two-day summit of top U.S. and Chinese officials played to surprisingly positive reviews in China‘s state-controlled press Saturday.

Commentators praised the Chinese delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Communist Party foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi, for refusing to back down in the face of what they said were unwarranted U.S. criticisms and breaches of protocol, while claiming the actual, closed-door talks had been far more useful than Thursday’s public session might have suggested.

China, U.S. hold timely, helpful high-level strategic dialogue” was Saturday’s headline in the Chinese state news service Xinhua, which noted Mr. Yang’s post-summit briefing remarks that the talks had been “direct, frank and constructive.”

Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the nationalist state-controlled Global Times, also expressed satisfaction with the results of the two-day summit, which included U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as an exercise in air-clearing and boundary-setting.

“I believe China and the U.S had a really good quarrel during their Alaska talks on Friday,” Mr. Hu wrote in an op-ed piece.

The Chinese side, he said, showed the new Biden administration that Beijing will stand up for its interests and reject criticism of its domestic policies. But he added the heated opening of the summit cleared the way for progress on more substantive issues.

“After such a public quarrel, I believe the two sides’ subsequent dialogue will be more rational and pragmatic,” Mr. Hu wrote. “… The two countries and the world’s public opinion were very pessimistic about the Alaska talks’ prospects. After the quarrel, the expectations are even lower. However, it is really possible that the final result could turn out to be better than expected.”

Diao Daming, a U.S. policy expert at China’s Renmin University, told the Global Times that “we should not be overly pessimistic about the dialogue despite the tough opening.”

He noted the rhetoric was far more heated and confrontational in the depths of the Cold War and “we eventually improved China-U.S. ties.”

“We should be patient,” he added. “China is much more powerful than in the 1950s, so we should be confident to continue the talks and actively shape bilateral ties.”

Added Zhang Jiadong, a professor at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University: “The sharp opening is necessary and inevitable in terms of both politics and public opinion. Both sides hope to gain an advantage in the negotiation. The talks are already an achievement even without concrete results.”

China‘s often highly nationalistic “netizens” were more critical online of the U.S. side’s performance in Alaska, calling the American diplomats arrogant and even highlighting reports that the senior Chinese officials were offered only instant noodles for lunch on the summit’s first day.

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