US secretary of state Antony Blinken has said the Biden administration aims to lead the international bloc opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into a broader coalition to counter what it sees as a more serious, long-term threat to global order from China.
In a speech outlining the administration’s China policy, Mr Blinken laid out a three-pillar approach to competing with Beijing in a race to define the 21st century’s economic and military balance.
While the US sees Russia and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as the most acute and immediate threat to international stability, Mr Blinken said the administration believed China posed a greater danger.
“Even as President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order — and that is the one posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Mr Blinken said.
“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.
“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.”
Mr Blinken laid out principles for the administration to marshal its resources, friends and allies to push back on increasing Chinese assertiveness around the world.
But he made clear that the US did not seek to change China’s political system, rather it wanted to offer a tested alternative.
“This is not about forcing countries to choose, it’s about giving them a choice,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the US had limited ability to directly influence China’s intentions and ambitions and would instead focus on shaping the strategic environment around China.
“We can’t rely on Beijing to change its trajectory,” Mr Blinken said in the speech, delivered at George Washington University.
“So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open and inclusive international system.”
The speech followed US president Joe Biden’s recent visits to South Korea and Japan, where China loomed large in discussions.
Mr Biden raised eyebrows during that trip when he said that the United States would act militarily to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of an invasion by China, which regards the island as a renegade province.
The administration scrambled to insist that Mr Biden was not changing American policy, and Mr Blinken restated that the US had not changed its position.
Mr Blinken said Washington still held to its One China policy, which recognised Beijing but allowed for unofficial links with and arms sales to Taipei.
“Our approach has been consistent across decades and administrations. The United States remains committed to our One China policy. We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side,” he said, adding that “we do not support Taiwan independence”.
Mr Blinken said that while US policy on Taiwan had remained consistent, China’s had become increasingly belligerent.
He made the case that the global response to Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could serve as a template for dealing with China’s efforts to mold a new and unpredictable world order to replace the rules and institutions that have guided relations between states since the end of the Second World War.
Mr Blinken said China had benefited greatly from that international order but was now trying to subvert it under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party.