Washington D.C.- Despite the current focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China poses “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
In a major speech Thursday at George Washington University in Washington, DC, Blinken laid out the United States’ multi-pronged strategy amid intensifying competition with China.
“The Biden administration’s strategy can be summed up in three words: invest, align, compete,” Blinken said.
“We will invest in the foundations of our strength here at home – our competitiveness, our innovation, our democracy. We will align our efforts with our network of allies and partners acting in common purpose and common cause, and by leveraging these two key strengths, we will compete with China to defend our interests and build our vision for the future.
The top US diplomat stressed that Washington was not seeking to block Beijing’s role as a “great power”, but was seeking to protect what he called the “rules-based order”, which he said maintains global stability and has enabled China to rise.
“We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War,” Blinken said. “On the contrary, we are determined to avoid both.”
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington told Reuters news agency that the two countries shared “broad common interests and deep potential for cooperation” and that “competition…should not be used to define the overall image of China-US relations”.
“China and the United States both stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation,” said Liu Pengyu, who said the relationship was “at a critical crossroads.” US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Ji Xinping held virtual talks in November 2021, and they spoke again in March.
“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,” the spokesperson said. embassy to Reuters.
The relationship between Washington and Beijing has seen growing tensions in recent years as the United States prioritized strategic competition with China in its foreign policy under former President Donald Trump, a position fully embraced by Biden. .
Amid efforts to restore ties, the Biden administration angered China last year when it struck a deal with the UK to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
Biden has also pushed to relaunch the Quad Asia-Pacific alliance with India, Australia and Japan, and met with the countries’ leaders when he visited Tokyo earlier this week after welcoming them to the House. White in September.
Earlier in May, the United States also hosted a summit in Washington for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), many of whom have disagreements with Beijing over competing claims over the South China Sea.
Biden drew Beijing’s ire this week when he said the United States would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if China tried to capture the self-governing island by force.
Another issue in the relationship is US criticism of China’s human rights record. In its final days in 2021, the Trump administration accused China of committing genocide against its Uyghur Muslim population in the western region of Xinjiang – a move supported by Biden and his foreign policy team.
China rejected the genocide charge, calling it “libelous” and “absurd”, arguing that the United States is pushing the charge for geopolitical reasons.
On Thursday, Blinken outlined Washington’s grievances with Beijing, saying China had become “more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad” under President Xi.
“We see it in how Beijing has perfected mass surveillance in China and exported this technology to over 80 countries,” Blinken said. “How he illegally advances maritime claims in the South China Sea, undermining peace and security, freedom of navigation and trade.
“How this circumvents or violates trade rules, harms workers and businesses in the United States, but also around the world. And how it claims to defend sovereignty and territorial integrity while standing with governments that brazenly violate them.
The US secretary of state was referring to China’s close ties with Russia, which persisted after the invasion of Ukraine despite warnings from Washington.
China has taken a neutral public stance on the war in Ukraine, urging nations to support efforts to reach a resolution to the conflict, while resisting pressure from Washington and its allies in Europe to condemn Russia.
He has also repeatedly criticized what he calls illegal and unilateral Western sanctions.
Blinken’s speech comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi begins a tour of 10 Pacific states, including the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and East Timor, to strengthen ties with those countries.
“It’s pretty clear that Xi Jinping considers his most important legacy to be making China a superpower, bringing China back to what he sees as its historically rightful place as a world power,” Christopher Heurlin said. , Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College. in the US state of Maine. “And that means economic growth, but it also means becoming a military power capable of wielding great influence over politics in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”
For the United States, Heurlin said focusing on competing with China is one of the few things that unites Republicans and Democrats.
“There is certainly a desire to preserve America’s superpower status and influence in the world order, which means that these two countries have conflicting goals to some degree. So there is definitely potential for tensions at the very least,” he told Al Jazeera.
Although the Biden administration claims to safeguard the international order that is rooted in documents such as the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, critics of US foreign policy say Washington has violated these principles. .
For example, in 2003 the United States carried out an invasion of Iraq without the authorization of the UN Security Council.
The Biden administration also continues to defend Israel in international forums and provide military aid to the country despite Israel violating many provisions of international law, including building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Moreover, Washington has recognized Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.
On Thursday, Blinken said Washington’s strategy to counter Beijing will see increased investment in research and innovation in the United States. He also said Biden had ordered the Department of Defense to consider China as his “pace challenge.”
“The administration is shifting our military investments from platforms designed for 20th-century conflict to longer-range, harder-to-find, easier-to-move, asymmetric systems,” he said.
Blinken highlighted the Biden administration’s focus on alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Quad, ASEAN and the US-UK-Australia security partnership, known as AUKUS.
He noted that Biden this week launched an initiative known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, bringing together more than a dozen regional states in economic cooperation.
While Blinken made it clear that competition with China will shape US foreign policy going forward, he said there were areas where the two countries should work together, including mitigating the climate crisis, the fight against COVID-19, the fight against the illicit drug trade and ensuring food security.
In this context, the senior American diplomat warned against hatred or hostility at home against Chinese Americans and Asian Americans in general.
“Chinese Americans have made invaluable contributions to our country; they’ve been doing it for generations,” Blinken said. “Mistreating a person of Chinese descent goes against everything we stand for as a country – whether it’s a Chinese national visiting or living here or a Chinese American or any other Asian American, whose claim to this country is equal to that of anyone else.