Biden’s team seemed unprepared for the hostility of their Chinese counterparts

On the other side, Blinken and Sullivan may have had one eye on dispelling the concern, especially among Republicans back home, that Biden might appease China. But judging from their reactions to Yang’s torpedo, it seems more likely—and disconcerting—that they were simply unprepared for this.

We don’t yet know what happened after the reporters and cameras left the room. A “senior official” said Thursday night, that, after the stormy public ripostes, the two sides “got down to business” and held “substantive, serious, and direct” discussions that went “well beyond the two hours we had allotted.” This language—“substantive, serious, and direct”—is reminiscent of the term “frank and businesslike” invoked by public-affairs officials in the Cold War era to describe particularly tense meetings between U.S. and Soviet diplomats.