Blinken says China’s strategy is around a rules-based order, not a ‘new cold war’

  • Blinken describes China as the most dangerous challenge to world order
  • In response, China says both would benefit from cooperation

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a long-awaited speech on US strategy to counter China’s rise, said the US would not prevent China from developing its economy, but wanted it to abide by international rules. as a superpower.

He said Washington will not try to change the Chinese political system, but will defend international law and institutions that maintain peace and security and enable countries to coexist.

“We are not looking for a conflict or a new cold war. On the contrary, we are determined to avoid both,” Blinken said in a 45-minute speech at George Washington University that covered the most contentious bilateral issues.

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Relations between the United States and China have fallen to their lowest level in decades under former President Donald Trump and further strained under President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has maintained the blanket tariffs imposed by his Republican predecessor on Chinese goods while seeking closer ties with allies to fight back. on Beijing. .

Seventeen months into his administration, Biden faced criticism from Republicans and some foreign policy watchers for not announcing an official strategy on China, the world’s second-largest economy and Washington’s main strategic competitor.

External crises, including the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year and Russia’s war in Ukraine, have distracted Biden, who has vowed not to allow China to overtake the US as a world leader under his watch.

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But his administration has sought to capitalize on new solidarity with allies galvanized by the Ukraine crisis and the “borderless” partnership that China announced with Moscow just weeks before Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24.

The most serious long-term challenge

Blinken said China poses “the most serious long-term challenge to the international system”.

He outlined a strategy to invest in the competitiveness of the United States and alignment with allies and partners to compete with China, calling this competition “our competition that we are losing.”

He said the Biden administration is ready to increase direct contact with Beijing across a full range of issues, and will respond “positively” if Chinese officials take action to address concerns.

“But we cannot count on Beijing to change course. So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision of an open and inclusive international order,” he said.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said the United States and China share “broad common interests and deep cooperation potential” and “competition … should not be used to define the overall picture of Sino-US relations.”

“Both China and the United States will benefit from cooperation and lose from confrontation,” said embassy spokesman Liu Bingyu.

He referred to a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last November and said the relationship was “at a critical crossroads.”

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“We hope the US side will work with China to earnestly implement the common understanding reached by the two leaders to strengthen communication, manage differences, and focus on cooperation,” he said.

‘Repressive’ and ‘aggressive’

While Blinken praised the hard work that the Chinese people have done for their country’s historic economic transformation in the past four decades, he directed a direct target at Xi Jinping, saying:

“Under President Xi, the ruling Communist Party of China has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.”

Blinken’s speech coincided with the start of the Chinese foreign minister’s sweeping tour of the Pacific island nations, an increasingly tense front in the competition for influence between Beijing and Washington. Read more

The speech was postponed earlier in May after Blinken tested positive for COVID-19 and after a month of intense US diplomacy focused on the Indo-Pacific, including Biden’s first trip as president to the region. Read more

Blinken reiterated the US commitment to the one-China policy on China’s purported democratic Taiwan, although Biden said earlier this week that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan.

Washington has a longstanding policy of strategic ambiguity over whether to defend Taiwan militarily, and Biden and his aides later said his comments did not reflect a shift in policy. Read more

Under the one-China policy, Washington officially recognizes Beijing diplomatically, although it is obligated by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. This has not changed and that Washington does not support Taiwan independence, Blinken said.

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“What has changed is Beijing’s increasing coercion, such as trying to sever Taiwan’s ties with countries around the world, and preventing it from participating in international organizations,” he said, describing the Chinese military’s near-daily activity near the island as “deeply destabilizing.”

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Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Humira Pamuk, David Bronstrom, and Doina Chiako; Editing by Stephen Coates and Howard Goller

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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