The flags of the United States and China stand behind a microphone and await the arrival of then-US Senator John McCain for a press conference at the US Embassy in Beijing on April 9, 2009.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING – Another high-level meeting between US and Chinese officials – this time in the Chinese city of Tianjin, just outside Beijing – began with criticism.

According to an English-language press release from the Chinese State Department, China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng said during talks with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday that relations between the two countries “are now at a stalemate and in serious trouble.” .

“Basically, it’s because some Americans portray China as an ‘imagined enemy,'” the press release said, adding, “We are calling on the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policies.”

However, the statement said China will continue to work with the US on condition that the leaders “change course” and stick to Chinese interests.

The US embassy in Beijing did not immediately have a comment when contacted by CNBC.

Tensions between the US and China have escalated in recent years. Former US President Donald Trump tried to counter long-term criticism of China such as unequal market access, lack of protection of intellectual property and the compulsion of companies to transfer technology in order to operate in the country with tariffs and sanctions.

Under President Joe Biden, the US has increased its criticism of Beijing for alleged human rights violations in regions such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Beijing regards these matters as part of its “internal affairs”.

On Monday, Xie claimed that contrary to such “meddling,” China “never forced a country.”

“The comments clumsily fit China’s existing diplomatic disputes,” said Nick Marro, head of global trade at The Economist Intelligence Unit, in an email, pointing out disagreements with India and Australia, among others.

“The US is paying close attention to all of these various hot spots, in part to take advantage of opportunities where frustration with China is causing third countries to move closer to the US,” said Marro. “As a result, the Chinese Vice Secretary of State’s comments are unlikely to be well received by the US delegation, let alone lead to a rethinking of Biden’s broader Asia strategy.”

Sherman is in China on Sunday and Monday to meet her colleagues there.

The aim of the meeting was not a negotiation but an attempt to keep high-level communication channels open, senior State Department officials said in a briefing with reporters over the weekend.

US officials expected to meet first with Xie and then with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The leaders are expected to work towards the first meeting of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Biden, which is likely to take place around the G-20 summit in October.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing Wednesday that Sherman would travel to China “from a position of strength,” similar to Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken’s meeting with his Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska.

At that meeting in March, the first high-level meeting between the two countries under Biden’s government began with an exchange of insults.

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In the months that followed, China’s Vice Prime Minister Liu He, who led trade negotiations during the Trump administration, spoke on the phone with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. According to official information, these business-oriented talks were friendlier.

US tough stance on China

Not only has Biden maintained his predecessor Trump’s tough stance on China, but he’s working more closely with U.S. allies to put overall pressure on China.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will also visit Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines while Blinken is visiting India.

Both the US and China “have a lot at stake” in working towards a meeting between Biden and Xi and will seek to show that the relationship is “not completely out of hand” while appearing strong, Michael Hirson , Trainer for China and Northeast Asia with Eurasia Group, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

He said Biden was able to convince major G-7 nations to make strong statements against China but “has not yet formulated a trade strategy or other approach that would be really effective in countering China’s economic power.”

– CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.