5 takeaways from Blinken’s speech on U.S. confronting China

·5 min read

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said the U.S. will rally the global alliance supporting Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia to confront China’s global ambitions, calling it a “charged moment for the world.”

“Beijing’s defense of President Putin’s war to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and secure its sphere of influence in Europe should raise alarm bells for all of us who call the Indo-Pacific Region home,” Blinken said in a speech at George Washington University.

“This is a charged moment for the world… we cannot rely on Beijing to change its trajectory. So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open, inclusive international system.”

The secretary’s speech served as a clear articulation of President Biden’s strategy to confront China, which the president has described as the greatest challenge facing the U.S. in the 21st century.

“President Biden believes this decade will be decisive,” Blinken said, outlining the strategy as “invest, align, compete,” with the goal of forcing Beijing to adhere to fair and transparent global rules, led by the U.S. and bolstered by international allies and partners.

“We must defend and reform the rules-based, international order — the system of laws, agreements, principles and institutions that the world came together to build after two world wars, to manage relations between states, to prevent conflict, to uphold the rights of all people,” Blinken said.

Here are five takeaways from his speech:

China ‘lobbying’ against U.S. legislation 

Blinken underscored that the first piece of the administration’s strategy is to invest in U.S. innovation and industry, calling on Congress to pass legislation that increases funding for research and development in the fields of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum computing.

House and Senate lawmakers are working to merge legislation aimed at increasing U.S. investment domestically to outcompete China globally, called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

Blinken urged Congress to “send the legislation to the president for his signature.”

“As President Biden has said, the Chinese Communist Party is lobbying against this legislation,” he added.

‘Foundations of the international order’ under threat

The secretary said the second part of the administration’s strategy is to align America’s allies and partners to defend the principles of the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as self determination, sovereignty, the peaceful settlement of disputes.

“The People’s Republic of China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” he said.

The secretary said there is “growing convergence about the need to approach relations with Beijing with more realism,” to confront its use of economic coercion and call out its repression of human rights domestically and targeting of dissidents abroad.

“We’re building bridges among our Indo-Pacific and European partners,” Blinken said. “Our diplomacy is based on partnership and respect for each other’s interests.”

Climate a critical area of cooperation

While Blinken issued harsh criticisms of China’s behavior on the domestic front and on the global stage, he emphasized maintaining communication with Beijing and said cooperation on combating climate change was necessary.

“We can’t let the disagreements that divide us stop us from moving forward on the priorities that demand that we work together for the good of our people and for the good of the world. That starts with climate,” he said.

“Unless we all do much more, much faster, the financial and human cost will be catastrophic,” the secretary added, pointing out that China and the U.S. are the primary and secondary countries, respectively, responsible for global emissions.

U.S. does ‘not support Taiwan independence’

Blinken emphasized that the U.S. does not support Taiwan independence but raised concern about Beijing’s “growing coercion” to isolate and militarily threaten the democratically-governed island.

“We enjoy a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan,” Blinken said, emphasizing U.S. commitment to its long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity,” which has Washington provide robust self-defense military capabilities to the island and push to increase its global participation while supporting efforts at diplomacy to resolve conflicts between Beijing and Taipei.

The secretary’s remarks follow intense pushback from the Chinese government on Monday to remarks Biden made in Japan that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense militarily if Beijing launched an attack. The White House quickly issued statements that the president’s remarks did not constitute a change in American policy.

Speaking out against anti-Asian hate

Blinken used a portion of his 45-minute remarks to address hate and violence directed towards people of Asian descent in the U.S., which has spiked since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China and the global focus on wide-ranging threats from the Chinese government.

“Mistreating someone of Chinese descent goes against everything we stand for as a country. Whether a Chinese national visiting or living here, or Chinese-American or any other Asian-American, who’s claim to this country is equal to anyone else’s,” Blinken said.

Violent crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to plague the U.S. The group STOP AAPI Hate has documented an estimated 11,000 hate incidents since the pandemic outbreak in March 2020.

“Racism and hate have no place in a nation built by generations of immigrants to fulfill the promise of opportunity for all,” Blinken said.

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