Describing America’s relationship with China as the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century”, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Wednesday said the Asian powerhouse is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological capability to seriously challenge the stable and open international system.
“We will manage the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century: our relationship with China. Several countries present us with serious challenges including, Russia, Iran, North Korea and there are serious crises we have to deal with, including in Yemen, Ethiopia and Burma. But the challenges posed by China are different,” Blinken said, as he unveiled the eight key foreign policy focus areas of the Joe Biden Administration.
“China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system. All the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people. Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be. Collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be,” Blinken said.
“The common denominator is the need to engage China from a position of strength. That requires working with allies and partners, not denigrating them. Because our combined weight is much harder for China to ignore,” he said. This, he said, requires engaging in diplomacy and in international organisations, because where the United States has pulled back China has filled in.
“It requires standing up for our values when human rights are abused in Xinjiang or when democracy is trampled in Hong Kong. Because if we don’t China will act with even greater impunity. And it means investing in American workers, companies, and technologies. And insisting on a level playing field because when we do, we can out-compete anyone,” Blinken said.
Winning in the global economy means making the right investments at home and pushing back against unfair trading practices by China and others, the secretary of state said. Dealing with climate change means investing in resilience and green energy here at home and leading a global effort to reduce carbon pollution, he said.
“More than at any other time in my career, maybe in my lifetime, distinctions between domestic and foreign policy have simply fallen away. Our domestic renewal and our strength in the world are completely entwined, and how we work will reflect that reality. And finally, as the president has promised diplomacy, not military action, will always come first,” Blinken said.
President Biden in his foreign policy address had described China as the “most serious competitor” to the US and vowed to confront Beijing on various fronts, including human rights, intellectual property and economic policy.
During his tenure, former president Donald Trump, a Republican, pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China’s military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan, the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, branding coronavirus as “China virus” after it emerged from Wuhan in December 2019 and the Tibet issue. Trump’s four years in power are regarded as the worst phase in China-US relations.