With no indication of a U.S.-China leaders’ summit in the works, and no sign of toning down the harsh rhetoric, the U.S. and China more or less fought a war of words on Monday, during the visit of Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Sherman met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and one of his deputies in the Chinese city of Tianjin. There were not any resolution or outcomes announced from the senior-level diplomatic and testy talks on Monday. The relations between the two countries appear to be at a standstill as both sides insist the other must make concessions for improvement to occur.
The State Department called the meetings “frank and open,” a diplomatic code for a skirmish, and painted Beijing as an international outlier that is subverting international norms, listing China’s genocide in Xinjiang and its refusal to cooperate with an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
China has not yet released details of Wang’s meeting with Sherman, which took place in a hotel compound modeled on millennia-old Chinese architecture in the coastal city not far from Beijing. Although Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman, “The U.S. is in no position to lecture China on democracy and human rights. The U.S. was once engaged in genocide against Native Americans.”
Speaking to The New York Times after her meetings, Sherman said, “On areas where we have common interest, and there are great global interest, we had very substantive discussions, shared some ideas. We will have to see where that goes.”
Sherman pressed China on actions Washington says run counter to the rules-based international order, including Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, what the U.S. government has deemed is an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, abuses in Tibet and the curtailing of press freedoms.
“I think it’d be wrong to characterize the United States as somehow seeking or soliciting China’s cooperation,” a senior U.S. administration official told reporters after the talks, referring to global concerns such as climate change, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.
“What was on display in Tianjin is that both sides are still very far apart on how they view the value and role of diplomatic engagement,” said Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
The U.S. and China left open the possibility of a summit between their presidents despite a contentious day of talks between officials from both sides. At this point, the conclusion is that little or no progress of any significance was made.