United States–China talks in Alaska

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Delegates from the People's Republic of China (left) and the United States of America (right).

The United States–China talks in Alaska, also referred to as the Alaska talks[1] or the Anchorage meetings,[2] were a series of meetings between representatives of China and the United States to discuss a range of issues affecting their relations. The talks took place in three rounds during a two-day period between March 18 and 19 of 2021. They took place at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.[3] Some American officials who attended the talks include Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Some Chinese officials who attended the talks include Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, and foreign minister Wang Yi.[1] Most of the talks took place behind closed doors.

Following the first day of the talks, both sides publicly denounced each other to the media. After the second day, some agreements were made, and the talks were called constructive, as well as substantive.


Preceding the talks, diplomatic relations between China and the United States were strained due to differing positions on trade, cyber espionage and human rights issues.[4] In the week before the talks, the Biden administration did the following: met with South Korea to reaffirm their alliance, imposed sanctions on senior Chinese officials along with the UK, the EU and Canada,[5] and met with the other members of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.[6] Barry Pavel of the Atlantic Council mentioned that this sequence of meetings in advance of the US–China meeting was to show the approach of the Biden administration: consulting with allies and partners, presenting a united front, and countering what he calls China's tactic "to pick countries off one by one, as part of a divide-and-conquer strategy".[7]

Anchorage was chosen as the city due to it being the mid-point between China and the United States, which acts as a refueling station between the two countries.[8] Pang Zhongying—an international relations specialist at Nankai University—said that holding the meeting there, midway between Beijing and Washington, showed "goodwill", but that "it is already very difficult for the two sides to have this meeting just 50 days after Biden came into office".[9]

Prior to the event, the talks were portrayed in the Chinese media as a move towards détente with the United States, following the end of the Trump administration.[10][11] The Chinese reportedly hoped to use the talks to negotiate an end to Trump era trade restrictions.[12]

Prior to the talks, the United States stated that the meeting was going to be a one-off event that would be used to air a "long list of [U.S.] concerns" with China.[2]


The United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, and adversarial where it must be.[2]

— Antony Blinken, Secretary of State (United States of America), public statement during the second day of talks

The first day of talks were noted for ending in mutual public denunciations by both sides.[13] The Chinese representatives accused the United States of "condescension and hypocrisy",[13] whilst the Americans accused the Chinese of "threatening the rule-based order that maintains global stability"[14] and launching an "assault on basic values",[15] such as democracy and human rights. Yang Jiechi responded by stating "that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world."[14] Yang went on to say that the United States and its allies did not represent global public opinion and accused the United States of being a global leader in cyber espionage.[16] Both sides accused the other of breaking diplomatic protocol.[17]

The conference ended on the second day without any joint statements. The Americans agreed to continue to uphold the one-China principle,[18] whilst also stating that the issue of Taiwan was one that the American government was "fundamentally at odds"[18] with the Chinese government. However, both sides agreed on the value of using the talks as an opportunity to hear and better understand each other's issues[13] and to continue cooperation on issues related to climate change.[3] The Chinese representatives told the media that the talks were "direct, frank, and constructive" while also affirming their commitment to "safeguard [their] national sovereignty".[19] The American representatives stated that the talks were "substantive, serious, and direct".[1] Both sides agreed to maintain open channels for continued dialogue and communication.[3]

After the meeting, Blinken stated to the media that America's intention during the talks was to share "the significant concerns that we have about a number of the actions that China’s taken and the behavior it’s exhibiting—concerns shared by our allies and partners. And we did that. We also wanted to lay out very clearly our own policies, priorities, and worldview, and we did that too."[20]

Issues discussed[edit]

Issues publicly raised by the Americans included:

Issues publicly raised by the Chinese included:

  • Alleged interference in China's internal affairs under the guise of human rights issues, such as in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.[12]
  • Adherence to the one-China principle[12]
  • Alleged double standards on counter-terrorism with regards to governance in Xinjiang.[12]
  • Trade sanctions and tariffs imposed during and after the China–United States trade war[23]
  • Accusations of the United States being hypocritical on race relations and human rights by bringing up Black Lives Matter protests.[16]
  • Alleged presence of a "Cold War mentality" within the American government when dealing with China.[22]

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau stated that he was confident that the American delegation would bring up the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig as a topic of discussion with their Chinese interlocutors at the talks.[24]


"Stop interfering in China's internal affairs", the quotation of Yang Jiechi during the talks, on a red T-shirt

Chinese state-owned media such as the Global Times and People's Daily described the talks as historic for marking a change in power relations between the two countries. This was due to the Chinese refusal to accept that the United States could, from the Chinese perspective, negotiate from a position of power.[25] The Australian-American publication The Diplomat wrote that the Chinese were likely trying to permanently change America's negotiating posture with China by signaling that China would no longer accept any direct criticism and now demanded respect in the context of a new type of great power relations.[26] The conservative American publication The National Interest stated that China likely got the "wrong message" from the meeting by showing no recognition that the American negotiators were also representing the interests and concerns of America's allies.[20] The Washington Post stated that the talks shattered any "illusions of a reset in U.S.-China relations" following the end of the Trump administration.[27]

In China, the talks increased anti-American nationalism[28] with merchandise quoting statements made by Yang and Wang at the talks reportedly selling well.[28][29] Yang's statement that his United States counterparts did "not have the qualification ... to speak to China from a position of strength" was celebrated by Chinese commentators and widely cited as an example of China standing up to imperialists.[30]: 71–72 

The Alaska meeting was followed two days later by a visit to China from Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, which was widely viewed as a sign of strengthening Chinese–Russian relations. The visit, which the Chinese framed as a response to US "encirclement," included a discussion of moving away from use of the US dollar in trade.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "US and China trade angry words at high-level Alaska talks". BBC News. 2021-03-19. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  2. ^ a b c Heer, Paul (2021-03-22). "Why the U.S.-China Strategic Rivalry Has Intensified". The National Interest. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  3. ^ a b c "China, US to work on climate, Beijing says after rancorous meeting". CNA. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  4. ^ "US and China publicly rebuke each other in first major talks of Biden era". the Guardian. 2021-03-19. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  5. ^ Mauldin, William (19 March 2021). "Bitter Alaska Meeting Complicates Already Shaky U.S.-China Ties". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  6. ^ Ng, Saheli Roy Choudhury,Abigail (2021-03-16). "Asia is a priority for U.S. foreign policy as Washington shores up alliances". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-03-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "The US just sent China a message in Alaska". 19 March 2021.
  8. ^ "U.S.-China Summit in Anchorage, Alaska". C-Span. 2021-03-18. Event occurs at 50m31s. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  9. ^ "Will Alaska meeting reduce US-China divide? Depends who you ask". South China Morning Post. 2021-03-14. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  10. ^ Welle (www.dw.com), Deutsche. "Alaska talks: Is the US trying to turn China into a pariah? | DW | 19.03.2021". DW.COM. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  11. ^ "Interview: China-U.S. Alaska meeting "starting point" for resetting bilateral ties - Xinhua | English.news.cn". www.xinhuanet.com. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  12. ^ a b c d Davis, Lingling Wei and Bob (2021-03-17). "China Plans to Ask U.S. to Roll Back Trump Policies in Alaska Meeting". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Jakes, Lara; Myers, Steven Lee (2021-03-19). "Tense Talks With China Left U.S. 'Cleareyed' About Beijing's Intentions, Officials Say". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  14. ^ a b "Commentary: After Alaska, age of selective engagement in US-China relations begins". CNA. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  15. ^ "After fiery start, US conclude 'tough' talks with China". CNA. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  16. ^ a b "U.S.-China Talks in Alaska Quickly Descend Into Bickering". Bloomberg News. 2021-03-18. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  17. ^ "US-China high-level talks to wrap up after acrimonious opening". CNA. Archived from the original on 2021-03-21. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  18. ^ a b c "Alaska talks: officials' take on 'one-China' reveals two opinions on Taiwan". South China Morning Post. 2021-03-21. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  19. ^ "China, US still split on hot-button topics but agree to climate change group". South China Morning Post. 2021-03-20. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  20. ^ a b Tonelson, Alan (2021-03-22). "America Should Have Walked Away From Its Meeting With China". The National Interest. Archived from the original on 2023-03-22. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  21. ^ Knott, Matthew (2021-03-11). "'Litany of complaints': US expects 'frank, difficult' meeting with China". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  22. ^ a b c "How it happened: Transcript of the US-China opening remarks in Alaska". Nikkei Asia. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  23. ^ Davis, Lingling Wei and Bob (2021-03-17). "WSJ News Exclusive | China Plans to Ask U.S. to Roll Back Trump Policies in Alaska Meeting". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  24. ^ "Lack of transparency around trials for 2 Michaels is 'unacceptable,' Trudeau says". Global News. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  25. ^ "Alaska talks to be remembered in history as a landmark". People's Daily. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  26. ^ "Do the Anchorage Talks Represent a New Normal for US-China Relations?". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  27. ^ Taylor, Adam; Rauhala, Emily (19 March 2021). "The Biden administration gets a taste of China's 'wolf warrior' diplomacy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  28. ^ a b "Terse Alaska meeting ignites anti-US Chinese nationalism". Australian Financial Review. 2021-03-21. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  29. ^ "T-shirts and phone cases featuring Chinese diplomats' strong words see hot sales after Alaska talks". People's Daily. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  30. ^ Marquis, Christopher; Qiao, Kunyuan (2022). Mao and markets the communist roots of Chinese enterprise. Kunyuan Qiao. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-26883-6. OCLC 1348572572.
  31. ^ Tétrault-Farber, Gabrielle (March 22, 2021). "Russia's top diplomat starts China visit with call to reduce U.S. dollar use". Reuters. Retrieved March 24, 2021.