Secretary Tony Blinken’s first exchange with China’s Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, got testy before they finished their opening remarks as the usual protocol was pushed aside and each side made its case in full force. The four-minute photo op became a 1:15 minute debate over the flaws and ill-intent of each country. The media described the exchange as testy, frothy and rocky (Brookings called the exchange “Getting real in Anchorage”).
At the conclusion of the exchange, it was clear a new era had begun for China and U.S. relations. Having passed beyond any expectations of China evolving, or Obama’s “pivot” to Asia, or Trump’s trade deficit focus, a new, broader and more ambitious policy is being adopted. Asia is now the primary theater and the U.S. is looking for allies, with Japan the top prospect and the Quad newly revived.
Although Blinken, Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met later in some more amicable substantive conversations, China relations are now highly competitive and the main focus of disputes will be values and ideals of democracy and application of the rule of law, or which system can produce the most peace, prosperity and security for their own and the world’s population.