Biden’s dramatic warning to China


President Joe Biden made clear he would protect America from Chinese threats to its sovereignty and singled out President Xi Jinping – a stark escalation of an alleged spy balloon showdown during his state of the art address. ‘Union.

Biden called out Beijing on Tuesday in front of millions of viewers in the United States and around the world as diplomatic tensions with China soar and new details emerge of a vast Chinese surveillance balloon program.

In the highly symbolic choreography of the US-China relationship, Biden’s statements were unusually blunt and raise questions about how Beijing will respond, even as his tone spoke of a charged domestic political backdrop as Republicans complained that he was too slow to knock the ball down.

Biden said in his speech to the House of Representatives that he told Xi that Washington was looking for “competition, not conflict.” But he also said American investments in its alliances, military and advanced technologies meant America was now in its strongest position in decades to compete with China and defend its interests.

“Make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did it,” Biden said, referring to the moment on Saturday when a US jet plane fired a missile that blew up the balloon off the US east coast, after spending days in the air. float across the continental United States and Canada.

Biden’s comments were in a theatrical setting and were partly designed to create political coverage. But a president warning China not to infringe on US sovereignty was still a remarkable moment that underscored a serious geopolitical shift.

Moments later, in an off-the-cuff addition to his speech, Biden specifically named Xi, as he criticized autocracies and argued for the superiority of democracies.

“Name me a world leader who would switch places with Xi Jinping. Name me one!” Biden spoke about his Chinese counterpart, whom he last met in Indonesia last year and has known for years. The president was almost shouting at the end of a a phrase that could pass for dismissive of China’s meteoric economic emergence at a time when Xi’s aura has been damaged by the mismanagement of Covid-19.

Biden’s speech focused primarily on domestic issues. But his remarks come at a time of geopolitical turbulence, as the United States simultaneously faces another nuclear rival: Russia. He praised the Western effort to counter President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and promised the Kyiv ambassador, who was in the audience: “We will support you as long as it takes. .

There is almost nothing that unites Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

But Biden’s comments underscored how opposition to China, which has crystallized here for several years, has now become a rallying and unifying point for American politics. China has long mounted an extensive intelligence campaign against the United States, using satellite, cyber and traditional methods of collection. The United States also conducts extensive intelligence operations targeting China. But the sight of a balloon tracking across the US, visible from the ground and on TV coverage, encapsulated a potential threat to US sovereignty from China like never before amid talk that a new war cold could be born.

Biden’s candid comments were also a milestone in the increasingly tumultuous competition between the United States and China. For much of the past 20 years, US policy has been designed to bring China into the global system as a competitor but not an adversary, including with its entry into the World Trade Organization. But China’s enormous economic growth and growing diplomatic belligerence mean that many Americans now view this approach as a failure. The US shift to talking about establishing safeguards for the relationship and the need to protect the Western-led rules-based international system is felt in China and seen as an attempt to curb its rightful destiny as a world power.

Biden built on former President Donald Trump’s hostile turn against Beijing, which was supercharged by the outbreak of a global pandemic that originated in China, and crafted far-reaching new laws and policies challenging the influence from China. In another sign of unified opposition to China, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has convened a new bipartisan House committee dedicated to examining the perceived threat from the Chinese Communist Party.

And Trump, again illustrating a moment of escalating domestic political hostility toward Beijing, wasted no time in augmenting Biden after Tuesday’s speech in a way that signals China-bashing — often a characteristic of presidential elections – will be intense in the 2024 campaign. This could further stoke diplomatic tensions and fuel Beijing’s belief that the United States is determined to contain its rise.

Trump’s campaign pledged to impose travel and visa sanctions to ‘shut off Chinese access’ to US secrets and promised new restrictions on Chinese ownership of energy, technology, infrastructure , farmland, medical supplies and other US assets. It was not immediately clear how Trump’s plans would differ from efforts already underway. And none of the tough new speeches — from Biden and Trump — acknowledge the deep and complex ties between the US and Chinese economies that would make full decoupling a process that could cost both sides dearly. Direct military confrontation or full-scale war would be even more ruinous for the global economy.

A key question now is whether the impassioned rhetoric of the United States and China – in many cases driven by national considerations – is a case of both sides going through diplomatic moves after a turbulent moment or whether it represents another new baseline in a deteriorating relationship similar to the rift caused by former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year. It’s worth noting that Biden didn’t specifically mention the Democratic Island – perhaps the most likely trigger for a US conflict with China – in his remarks, perhaps to avoid causing even more tension.

Biden has repeatedly declared as president that he would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack – in an apparent rewrite of the longstanding policy of strategic ambiguity on the issue – only for officials to insist that the American position has not changed.

The president spoke as an already volatile situation with China over the ball worsened. China’s top official in Washington, Xu Xueyuan, had earlier filed “stern representations” in demarches to senior State Department and national security officials, the Chinese embassy said in a statement, complaining that the United States had used force to attack the ball. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson responded dismissively, saying: “It was clear they were scrambling to limit damage, rather than respond credibly to their intrusion into our airspace.”

China initially expressed regret over what it claimed was a civilian airship that entered US airspace. But his response has hardened since the ball was knocked down. The Pentagon said earlier on Tuesday that China had refused a request from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a conversation with his counterparts in Beijing after his attack. What is unclear now is whether the Chinese position will lead to months of broken communication between the rivals – a dangerous situation given the proximity of their forces and the possibility of miscalculations in the South China Sea. southern – or if once the rhetorical demagogy is over, they will get him rehired.

When he postponed his planned trip to Beijing because of the balloon showdown, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was careful to say he was “postponing” and not abandoning his trip entirely. But there is as yet no indication that conditions have stabilized to such an extent that a trip, which was intended to resolve the kind of tensions exacerbated by the balloon issue, can take place anytime soon.

One danger is that growing hostility toward China in Washington, which many senior leaders see as the result of Xi’s increasingly nationalistic and abrasive foreign policy, will stymie a much-needed domestic debate about how to handle the Chinese politics. Currently, the irresistible political momentum is that politicians are coming together to show they are tough on Beijing. But this anti-China fervor, seen from both sides of the aisle, is hardly conducive to easing tensions — as shown by the way Republicans immediately condemned Biden for his balloon response.

Suspicions towards Beijing will not have been helped by the revelations on the scale of the Chinese balloon program on Tuesday. US intelligence officials believe a massive Chinese military-run surveillance program is based in Hainan province and has carried out at least two dozen missions on at least five continents in recent years. About half a dozen of those flights took place in US airspace – but not necessarily over US territory, according to an official familiar with intelligence services.

The president delivered his speech in a tense moment, with the United States locked in simultaneous confrontations with China and Russia. These two nuclear superpowers have tightened their relationship in a new era of great power politics that Biden sees as a fight between democracy and tyranny. Biden described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a test of the ages, a test of America, a test of the world” and an example of how America was working for more “freedom , more dignity and more peace”.

His remarks on Russia immediately preceded those on China, making it impossible to miss the symbolic synergy between his policy towards the two nations as he laid out what could be seen as a Biden doctrine of standing with democracies against democracies. autocracies and the growing attempts by nations like Russia and China to exercise power beyond its borders.


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