Quips on translators offer brief moment of levity in China-U.S. talks

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Amid a heated start to the first face-to-face high-level Sino-U.S. talks of the Biden administration, the two countries’ top diplomats found a brief moment to exchange quips - about translators.

After U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened with tough comments at their meeting in an Anchorage hotel, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi responded with a pointed 15-minute speech in Chinese while the U.S. side awaited translation.

At the end, Yang smiled and said: “This is a test for the translator,” in English.

Blinken said the translator should get a raise.

The British-educated Yang, a former ambassador to Washington, speaks perfect English, and is known to scare China’s translators on occasion by correcting their words.

Both Yang and State Councilor Wang Yi, who is also at the talks, are known for their sharp public defences of China.

However, a widely shared video clip on Chinese social media from the talks showed a softer side to the two.

Wang turned to ask Yang as they walked down a hallway at the Anchorage hotel whether he had had his lunch.

“I had instant noodles,” Yang replied.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore