Ex-Chinese Officials See Cooperation Areas After Alaska Talks

After the first high-level U.S.-China talks during the Biden administration ended with no agreements, some top former officials in Beijing still saw potential areas of cooperation to move the relationship forward.

Speaking during the government-sponsored China Development Forum, top figures including a former vice foreign minister, a senior military adviser and a prominent academic on U.S-China relations all outlined areas the world’s biggest economies could work together even while expressing concern about the discussions in Alaska.

U.S. and Chinese officials traded barbs over two days of talks that ended on Friday in Anchorage, with no apparent progress over the numerous sources of tension between the two sides, including tariffs and human rights in Xinjiang to Hong Kong and cybersecurity. They left with no immediate plans for more talks.

At the conference on Saturday organized by a unit of the State Council in Beijing, speakers from China called for pragmatic solutions to areas that affected both countries. Those included forming rules on emerging technology, people-to-people exchanges, coordination on monetary policy and reducing the risk of a military confrontation.

Yao Yunzhu, senior adviser to the China Association of Military Sciences and a retired major general of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, said that the Anchorage talks illustrated the two sides cannot depend on “strategic trust” to prevent military conflicts.

It is “paramount” that the nations take steps to improve military-related crisis-management regimes, including updating the codes of behavior governing close encounters, she said.

Yao said China and the U.S. should work together to set standards for emerging technologies such as space, cyber and artificial intelligence, especially on how they’re used by the military. “Excluding each other from this process will bring about grave consequences,” she said.

‘Difficult Patch’

Former Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said that relations between the two countries are “in a difficult patch of sharp decline,” and she criticized the U.S. “habit” of interfering in China’s internal affairs.

“The Chinese side finds the wrong moves on the U.S. side incomprehensible and unacceptable,” said Fu, who is currently chairperson for the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “The U.S. have raised lots of opinions and arguments about China’s internal affairs. It seems that they know more about China than us -- they can do a better job in managing China.”

Rebuilding the relationship would require the U.S. to undo the damage caused by the Trump administration’s actions against China and for Washington to show Beijing greater understanding, said panelist Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies and director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“The meeting this time doesn’t show this is the case because the U.S. doesn’t show any sign of eradicating the toxicity from the Trump administration,” nor does it display any respect toward China, said Wu, who advises China’s Foreign Ministry.

The conference also featured remarks from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, both of whom attended online. American speakers said potential areas for cooperation included climate change and help for poorer nations.

In his speech recorded before the Alaska talks, Kissinger said ties between the U.S. and China would require both sides to make “ever more intensive efforts” to work together.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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