- Blinken calls China the most serious challenge to the world order
- In response, China says both have everything to gain from cooperation
WASHINGTON, May 26 (Reuters) – The United States will not prevent China from developing its economy, but wants it to play by international rules, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday in a much-anticipated speech on the American strategy in the face of the rise of China. as a great power.
Washington will not try to change China’s political system, but will defend international law and institutions that maintain peace and security and allow countries to coexist, he said.
“We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War. On the contrary, we are determined to avoid both,” Blinken said in the 45-minute speech at George Washington University, which covered the most contentious bilateral issues.
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US-China relations have sunk to their lowest level in decades under former President Donald Trump and deteriorated further under President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has maintained his Republican predecessor’s tariffs on Chinese goods while pursuing closer ties with allies to push back against Beijing. .
Seventeen months into his administration, Biden had come under fire from Republicans and some foreign policy watchers for failing to announce an official strategy on China, the world’s second-largest economy and Washington’s main strategic rival.
Foreign crises, including the US’s disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan last year and Russia’s war in Ukraine, have created distractions for Biden, who has vowed not to let China overtake the US as a world leader under his leadership.
But his administration has sought to capitalize on a newfound solidarity with allies spurred by the Ukraine crisis and the “limitless” partnership China announced with Moscow just weeks before Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24.
“THE MOST SERIOUS LONG-TERM CHALLENGE”
Blinken said China posed “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order.”
He laid out the outlines of a strategy to invest in US competitiveness and align with allies and partners to compete with China, calling that competition “our game to lose”.
He said the Biden administration was ready to increase direct communication with Beijing on a range of issues and would “respond positively” if Chinese authorities took action to address concerns.
“But we cannot rely on Beijing to change its course. So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision of an open and inclusive international system,” he said.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said the United States and China share “broad common interests and deep potential for cooperation” and that “competition…should not be used to define the overall picture of China-US relations”.
“China and the United States both stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation,” embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said.
He noted a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last November and said the relationship was “at a critical crossroads.”
“We hope the US side will work with China to seriously implement the common understanding reached by the two leaders to improve communication, manage differences and focus on cooperation,” he said.
“REPRESSIVE” AND “AGGRESSIVE”
While Blinken credited the hard work of the Chinese people for the historic economic transformation of his country over the past four decades, he took direct aim at Xi Jinping, saying:
“Under President Xi, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.”
Blinken’s speech coincided with the start of an extensive tour by China’s foreign minister of 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 follows a month of intensive US diplomacy focused on the Indo-Pacific, including Biden’s first trip as president to the region. Read more
Blinken reiterated the United States’ commitment to the one-China policy on China’s claimed democratic Taiwan, even though Biden said earlier this week that the United States would get involved militarily if China attacked Taiwan.
Washington has long had a policy of strategic ambiguity about whether it would militarily defend Taiwan, and Biden and his aides later said his remarks did not reflect a shift in policy. Read more
Under the one-China policy, Washington officially recognizes Beijing diplomatically, although it is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. Blinken said that has not changed and that Washington does not support Taiwan independence.
“What has changed is Beijing’s increasing coercion, such as trying to cut off Taiwan’s relations with countries around the world and preventing it from participating in international organizations,” he said, calling the almost daily activity of the Chinese military near the island of “deeply destabilizing”.
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Reporting by Michael Martina, Humeyra Pamuk, David Brunnstrom and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Stephen Coates and Howard Goller
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