Blinken said the US aims to constrain China by shaping its environment

Washington – Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken said Thursday that despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China is still greatest challenger of the United States and its allies, and that the Biden administration aims to “shape the strategic environment” around the Asian superpower to curb its increasingly aggressive actions.

“China is the only country with the intent to reshape the international system, and increasingly the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do so,” Mr. Blinken said in a speech presenting the administration’s strategy on China. “Beijing’s vision will distance us from the universal values ​​that have sustained so much global progress over the past 75 years.”

The speech was the first public overview of President Biden’s approach to China, and it builds on a much longer secret strategy that was largely completed last fall. US officials say decades of direct economic and diplomatic engagement to force the Chinese Communist Party to abide by US-led rules, agreements and institutions have largely failed, and Mr. Blinken emphasized that the goal now should be to form alliances with other countries to reduce the party’s global power and curb its aggressions. .

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

China’s open alliance with Russia before and during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine made clear to US and European officials the difficulties of dealing with Beijing. On February 4, nearly three weeks before the invasion, President Vladimir Putin met President Xi Jinping in Beijing where the two countries’ governments issued a 5,000-word statement. Announcing the “Without Borders” Partnership It aims to oppose the international diplomatic and economic systems supervised by the United States and its allies. Since the start of the war, the Chinese government has provided diplomatic support to Russia by repeating Mr. Putin’s criticisms of NATO and Spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories that undermine the United States and Ukraine.

“Beijing’s defense of President Putin’s war to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and secure a sphere of influence in Europe should sound alarm bells to all of us who call the Indo-Pacific region home,” Mr. Blinken told an audience at George Washington University.

Mr. Blinken stressed that the United States does not seek to overthrow the Communist Party or undermine the Chinese political system, and that the two nations – nuclear powers with intertwined economies – could work together on some issues. However, Chinese officials will almost certainly regard key parts of the speech as an outline of China’s containment efforts, similar to previous US policy toward the Soviet Union.

In private conversations, Chinese officials have expressed concern about the focus on regional alliances under Biden’s leadership and the potential for them to be shattered in China.

Mr. Blinken referred to the establishment last year of A security agreement called AUKUSbetween Australia, Britain and the United States. The work on coalition building is the opposite of President Donald J. Trump, who has denounced US partners and alliances as part of his “America First” foreign policy.

Mr. Blinken’s speech centered around Biden’s strategy mantra: “Invest, line up and compete.” Partnerships fall under the “Harmonization” section. The term “investment” refers to the injection of resources into the United States — administration officials point to the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year as an example. The word “rival” refers to rivalry with China, a framework that the Trump administration has also promoted.

Both administrations have emphasized the same fundamental problems in US-China relations: The integration of China’s economy with that of the United States and its allies gives Beijing enormous strategic leverage. The wealth that China has amassed from trade helps it undo US dominance over the global economy and technology as well as military power in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Beijing wants to position itself at the center of global innovation and industrialization, increase the technological dependence of other countries, and then use that dependence to impose its foreign policy preferences,” Mr. Blinken said. “Beijing is doing everything it can to win this competition — for example, taking advantage of the openness of our economies to spying, hacking and theft of technology and knowledge to advance its military innovations and entrench its surveillance state.”

Mr. Blinken also said that to meet the challenges posed by Beijing, he was creating a “Chinese House” team to coordinate policy across the State Department and work with Congress.

“Competition exists in some areas such as trade, but it should not be used to define the overall picture of Sino-US relations,” Liu Bingyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said after the speech.

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“China’s goal is never to bypass, replace, or engage in zero-sum competition with the United States,” he added.

Mr. Blinken also referred to human rights abuses, repression of ethnic minorities and suppression of freedom of expression and assembly by the Communist Party in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. In recent years, these issues have fueled greater hostility toward China among Democratic and Republican politicians and policymakers. “We will continue to raise these issues and advocate for change,” he said.

But Mr. Blinken sought to defuse any misunderstanding about Taiwan Largest single ignition point in US-China relations. He reiterated the long-standing US policy on Taiwan, despite Mr Biden’s remarks in Tokyo on Monday that the US has an “obligation” To intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if China attacks the democratic autonomous island. For decades, the US government maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” in Taiwan – and did not say whether it would use force to protect the island from China – and opposed Taiwan independence.

Mr. Blinken said it was China’s recent actions toward Taiwan – trying to sever the island’s diplomatic and international ties and sending fighter jets over the region – that were “deeply destabilizing”.

“While our policy has not changed, what has changed is the growing coercion of Beijing,” he said.

Yaoi Liu, professor of political science at Emory University and director of the China Research Center in Atlanta, said Mr. Blinken’s words would not reassure Beijing. “I don’t think this will satisfy the Chinese side,” he said in a conversation via Twitter Spaces after the speech.

But Mr. Blinken stressed that despite mounting concerns, the United States was not seeking a new Cold War and would not try to isolate China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Mr. Blinken credited China’s growth with the talent and hard work of the Chinese people, as well as China’s stability world trade agreements and diplomacy created and shaped by the United States in what Washington calls the rules-based international order.

“It can be said that no country on earth has benefited more than China,” he said. “But instead of using its power to strengthen and revitalize the laws, agreements, principles, and institutions that have made it possible so that other countries can benefit from them as well, Beijing is working to undermine them.”

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After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, which was supported by the United States, leaders in Beijing made far-reaching changes to the country’s planned economy in order to open up more to foreign trade and investment, helping to transform China from one of the world’s countries. From the poorest countries to the largest center of its factories, raising hundreds of millions of people to the global middle class.

But China fell short of becoming the free-market democracy that many in the West had hoped for, and over the past decade, under Mr. Xi, the Communist Party and the Chinese state exercised greater control over the private market and individual liberties. .

Both Democrats and Republicans now see Chinese business practices, including the government’s creation of heavily supported national champions and its acceptance of intellectual property theft, as one of the biggest factors undermining American industry.

“For a very long time, Chinese companies have had much greater access to our markets than our companies in China,” said Mr. Blinken. This lack of reciprocity is unacceptable and unsustainable.”

The administration made a key initiative to shape the economic environment around China – the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – during Biden’s visit to Tokyo this week. The United States and 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region will try to negotiate new industrial standards.

But skeptics said Washington’s ability to shape trade in the Asia-Pacific region may be limited because the framework is not a traditional trade agreement that offers countries tariff cuts and increased access to the lucrative US market — a move that would be unpopular in the United States politically.

Mr. Blinken did not highlight the Chinese government’s influence operations and espionage in the United States, which have been a focal point of the Trump administration’s messaging on China. He said he welcomed the Chinese exchange students, and that many of them are staying — “They help drive innovation here at home, and it benefits all of us.”

“We can remain vigilant about our national security without closing our doors,” he said. “Racism and hatred have no place in a nation built by generations of immigrants to fulfill the promise of opportunity for all.”

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