US and Chinese officials have exchanged sharp rebukes within the first high-level talks between the Biden administration and China, happening in Alaska.
Chinese officials accused the US of inciting countries “to attack China”, while the US said China had “arrived intent on grandstanding”.
Relations between the 2 superpowers are at their most strained for years.
The US has pledged to boost contentious issues like Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The ill-tempered talks in Anchorage involved Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the US side, facing off with China’s most senior foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, and foreign minister Wang Yi.
In a blunt opening statement, Mr. Blinken said the US would “discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber-attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies”.
“Each of those actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” he said.
In response, Mr. Yang accused Washington of using its military might and financial supremacy to suppress other countries.
“It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China,” he added.
Mr. Yang said human rights within the US were at a coffee point, with black Americans being “slaughtered”.
Mr. Sullivan hit back, saying Washington didn’t seek a conflict with China but added: “We will always get up for our principles for our people, and for our friends.”
The exchange, which happened ahead of the world’s media, went on for quite an hour. It came at the start of three sessions, which are due to end on Friday morning.
Afterward, the US delegation accused China of violating the agreed protocol of two minutes of opening remarks by all sides.
“The Chinese delegation seems to possess arrived objective on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance,” a senior administration official said.
The official said the US would continue with the talks as planned, adding that “exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience”.
In later remarks via state media, Chinese officials said it had been the US, not China, that had violated protocol by exceeding the agreed time in opening remarks. They accused the US of creating a “groundless attack on China’s domestic and foreign policies”.
On a more positive note, it quoted Mr. Yang as saying that “serious difficulties in China-US relations within the past shouldn’t continue”.
The BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher says the talks are the primary chance for the Biden administration to point out how it intends to affect what Mr. Blinken has called “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st Century”.
China is trying to find a reset after relations hit the lowest under the Trump administration, our correspondent adds. Mr Wang has said that Beijing is prepared to reopen “constructive dialogue.”