U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined the Biden administration’s strategy to outcompete China in the next decade by investing in critical infrastructure, bolstering supply chain security and working with allies.
In a long-anticipated speech in Washington, he said the U.S. intends to “shape the strategic environment” to ensure Beijing does not move the world away from the universal values that have helped shape the international order for the past 75 years.
The secretary of state said the U.S. wants to prevent unintended crises and avoid creating a new Cold War. But he also outlined a series of concerns, including China’s internal human rights practices, territorial disputes with neighbors and international trade, where the United States plans to continue to counter what he described as a more internationally assertive China.
On Taiwan, Blinken said the U.S. opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo from either Beijing or Taipei. Washington also does not support Taiwan independence and expects cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.
“While our policy has not changed, what has changed is Beijing’s growing coercion — like trying to cut off Taiwan’s relations with countries around the world and blocking it from participating in international organizations.”
The chief U.S. diplomat’s remarks followed President Joe Biden’s visit to Japan, where he said the U.S. would be willing to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if China were to invade the island democracy. Biden later clarified there had been no change to the U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity on Taiwan.
However, Blinken said what has changed is Beijing’s behavior.
“Beijing has engaged in increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity, like flying PLA [People’s Liberation Army] aircraft near Taiwan on an almost daily basis. These words and actions are deeply destabilizing; they risk miscalculation and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
For decades, the U.S. has been clear that its decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1979 rested upon the expectation that “the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means,” as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
The Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan but asserts sovereignty over the self-ruled democracy. The CCP has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Shifting economic policy
With the theme of “invest, align and compete,” Blinken said the U.S. is not trying to “transform China’s political system.” Instead, he said, Washington will work with allies to “defend and strengthen the international law, agreements, principles 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.”
Biden has not yet decided to lift the tariffs on imported Chinese products that former President Donald Trump introduced starting in 2018. But observers see differences in how his administration is approaching Beijing.
“One major difference [of Biden administration’s strategy] from the Trump administration is the emphasis on shaping the strategic environment around China based on the assessment that the United States cannot change China,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told VOA.
While the Biden administration has indicated it supports delinking some industries from dependency on China and diversifying supply chains for national security reasons, analysts said the administration is not outwardly advocating “decoupling” from China.
The term refers to progressively cutting off economic and trade linkages between the U.S. and China, which are each other’s biggest trading partner.
“The United States does not want to sever China’s economy from ours or from the global economy — though Beijing, despite its rhetoric, is pursuing asymmetric decoupling, seeking to make China less dependent on the world and the world more dependent on China. For our part, we want trade and investment as long as they’re fair and don’t jeopardize our national security,” Blinken said Thursday.
In response, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the U.S., Liu Pengyu, said in an email that “competition does exist in some areas such as trade, but it should not be used to define the overall picture of the China-U.S. relations. It is never China’s goal to surpass or replace the U.S. or engage in zero-sum competition with it.”
Both the U.S. and China are navigating economic challenges of rising fuel prices and inflation. But a new independent analysis from Bloomberg Economics projected that this year, for the first time since 1976, the U.S. economy is poised to grow at a higher average annual rate than the Chinese economy.
Blinken also renewed Washington’s profound concerns over China’s human rights practices, including charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang — terms the United States and other nations have used but Beijing rejects.
Blinken’s remarks followed the release this week of the so-called Xinjiang Police Files, a cache of data allegedly hacked from police computer servers in the region where China has carried out the mass internment of Uyghurs in recent years.
The information includes thousands of photographs — including mug shots — and documents that show the Chinese government targeting Uyghurs for their ethnicity and Islamic faith.
In January 2021, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally classified China’s policies toward Uyghurs as genocide and crimes against humanity. Blinken has endorsed his predecessor’s assessment that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged in genocide against the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang.