By Roseanne Gerin
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said the United States would employ a threefold strategy of investing at home, aligning efforts allies and partners, and competing with China to counter Beijing’s drive to change the existing rules-based world order.
“To succeed in this decisive decade, the Biden Administration’s strategy can be summed up in three words — invest, align, compete,” Blinken said.
“The foundations of the international order are under serious and sustained challenge,” he told an audience at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine posing a “clear and present threat, and China as a long-term challenge.
“Even as President Putin’s war continues, we remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order, and that’s posed by the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
“China is the only country with the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it, Blinken said.
“Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years” since the end of World War II, he said.
IPEF & Quad
Blinken’s speech came several days after President Joe Biden returned from his first visit to Asia since taking office in January 2021.
Biden visited U.S. allies South Korea and later Japan, where he unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) which 13 other nations signed up to with hopes that it will lead to a free trade agreement in the future.
Biden also attended a summit of the Quad, an Indo-Pacific security grouping of the Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. that is widely seen as countering China’s rising influence and assertiveness in the region.
Blinken noted that cooperation with China is necessary for the global economy and solving issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic and said the U.S. was not looking for conflict or a new Cold War.
“To the contrary, we are determined to avoid both,” he said, adding that the U.S. is not seeking to block China or any other nation from growing economically or advancing the interest of their people.
“But we will defend and strengthen international law, agreements, principals and institutions that maintain peace and security, protect the rights of individuals and sovereign nations, and make it possible for all countries, including the United States and China, to coexist and cooperate,” said Blinken.
Though China’s rise was possible because of the stability and opportunity that the international order provides, the country is now seeking to undermine those rules, he said.
In his 40-minute talk, Blinken touched on hot-button issues like the South China Sea and China’s treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority in Xinjiang, where Beijing’s heavy-handed policies have been branded genocide by the U.S. and other Western nations.
“Under Xi Jinping, the ruling Chinese Communist Party have become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad,” he said.
“We’ll continue to oppose Beijing’s aggressive and unlawful activities in the South and East China Seas,” he said, noting a 2016 international court ruling that found Beijing’s expansive claims in those waters “have no basis in international law.”
Human rights was another “area of alignment we share with our allies and partners,” said Blinken, who raised Chinese crackdowns on Uyghurs, Tibetans and repression in Hong Kong.
“The United States stands with countries and people around the world against the genocide and crimes against humanity happening in the Xinjiang region, where more than a million people have been placed in detention camps because of their ethnic and religious identity,” he said.
A leading Uyghur-American official welcomed his remarks, which came as the top United Nations official for human rights was poised to visit Xinjiang, amid expectations that Beijing will so tightly manage the itinerary that the official, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, will not get an accurate view of conditions there.
“I was encouraged to hear Secretary’s commitment to align with US allies and partners to respond and stop the ongoing Uyghur genocide and crimes against humanity in the Uyghur homeland,” said Nury Turkel, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“We stand together on Tibet, where the authorities continue to wage a brutal campaign against Tibetans and their culture, language, and religious traditions, and in Hong Kong, where the Chinese Communist Party has imposed harsh anti-democratic measures under the guise of national security,” Blinken added.
“We’ll continue to raise these issues and call for change – not to stand against China, but to stand up for peace, security, and human dignity.”
Additional reporting by Alim Seytoff in Munich, Germany.