A top Chinese diplomat took a confrontational tone on Monday in the rare high-level talks with the United States. Amid worsening relations between the world's two largest economies, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the second-ranking US diplomat, had face-to-face meetings with China's vice foreign minister in Tianjin that the US State Department described as 'frank and open', reports Reuters.
No specific outcomes were agreed and the prospect of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping was not discussed, senior US administration officials said following talks that lasted about four hours.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the prospect of a meeting between Biden and Xi did not come up during Ms Sherman's meetings, though she added that she expects there will be some opportunity to engage at some point.
China seized the early narrative, with state media reporting on confrontational remarks by Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng soon after the session began, in echoes of a similarly combative opening by senior Chinese officials during high-level talks in March in Alaska.
Foreign media were kept at a distance from the site of the talks, held outside of Beijing due to Covid-19 protocols, but Chinese media were permitted on the premises.
'The United States wants to reignite the sense of national purpose by establishing China as an 'imaginary enemy',' Mr Xie was quoted as saying while the talks were underway.
The United States had mobilised its government and society to suppress China, he added.
'As if once China's development is suppressed, US domestic and external problems will be resolved, and America will be great again, and America's hegemony can be continued.'
Ms Sherman laid out US concerns over China's actions on issues ranging from Hong Kong and Xinjiang to Tibet and cyberattacks, senior administration officials said, adding that China should not approach areas of global concern, such as climate and Afghanistan, on a transactional basis.
Ms Sherman, who also met with State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, raised additional concerns, including over what Washington sees as China's unwillingness to cooperate with the World Health Organization on a second phase investigation of the origins of Cocid-19, and foreign media access in China.
The Deputy Secretary raised concerns in private - as we have in public - about a range of PRC actions that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, and that undermine the international rules-based order,' the State Department said in a statement.
'It is important for the United States and China to discuss areas where we disagree so that we understand one another's position, and so that we are clear about where each side is coming from,' a senior administration official said.
'Reaching agreement or specific outcomes was not the purpose of today's conversations,' a senior US official said.
Ms Psaki told reporters on Monday that while there are areas of concern with China, the two countries might align on areas such as climate and non-proliferation as well as on regional concerns such as North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar.