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US aims to coerce China by shaping environment around it, says Blinken

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Thursday that despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China remains the biggest challenger to the United States and its allies, and the Biden administration is aiming to “shape the strategic environment” around the Asian superpower to limit its increasingly aggressive actions.

“China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological might to do so,” Blinken said in a speech outlining the administration’s strategy on China. “Beijing’s vision would take us away from the universal values ​​that have underpinned so much progress in the world over the past 75 years.”

The speech was a much shorter public version of the administration’s classified strategy on China, which was largely completed last fall. US officials have concluded that decades of direct economic and diplomatic engagement to compel the Chinese Communist Party to comply with the US-led order have largely failed, and Mr. Blinken said the goal should now be to form coalitions with other other nations to limit the party’s influence and try to curb its aggression in this way.

“We cannot rely on Beijing to change its trajectory,” he said. “We will therefore shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision of an open and inclusive international system.”

China’s statements before and during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further clarified for US and European officials the difficulties of engaging with Beijing. On February 4, two weeks before the invasion, President Vladimir V. Putin met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing as their two governments issued a 5,000-word statement announcing a “limitless” partnership aimed at opposing the international diplomatic and economic systems. supervised by the United States and its allies. Since the beginning of the war, the Chinese government has given strong diplomatic support to Russia by reiterating Mr. Putin’s criticisms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and by spreading theories of disinformation and of conspiracies that are undermining the United States and Ukraine.

In his speech at George Washington University on “Invest, Align and Compete,” Blinken noted human rights abuses, repression of ethnic minorities, and suppression of free speech and meetings in the regions of Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. . In recent years, these issues have sparked greater animosity toward China among Democratic and Republican politicians and policymakers. “We will continue to raise these issues and call for change,” he said.

Blinken reiterated long-standing US policy on Taiwan, despite President Biden’s remarks in Tokyo on Monday that the US was “committed” to getting involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China attacked the self-governing democratic island. The US government has for decades maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan, without saying whether it would directly defend the island against China. Mr Blinken said it was China’s recent actions towards Taiwan – attempting to sever the island’s diplomatic and international ties, for example, and sending fighter jets over the region – that were “deeply destabilizing”.

But Mr Blinken stressed that despite growing concerns, the United States was not seeking a new Cold War and would not try to isolate China, the world’s second-largest economy. He reiterated a point that Mr. Biden and his national security aides have made since Mr. Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign – that there are areas of cooperation with China, including climate change, health security and the global economy.

Blinken attributed China’s growth to the talent and hard work of the Chinese people, as well as the stability and timeliness of the rules on global trade and diplomacy created and shaped by the United States in this what Washington calls the international order. “It can be said that no country on earth has benefited as much as China,” he said. “But rather than using its power to strengthen and revitalize the laws, agreements, principles and institutions that enabled its success, so that other countries can also benefit, Beijing is undermining it.”

Following China’s US-backed World Trade Organization membership in 2001, Beijing’s leaders made sweeping changes to the country’s planned economy to open up more to trade foreign and investment, helping to transform China from one of the countries in the world. the poorest countries in its greatest center of factories, and raising hundreds of millions of people into the world’s middle class. But China has ceased to become the free-market democracy that many in the West had hoped for, and over the past decade under Mr. Xi, the Communist Party and the Chinese state have wielded an even heavier hand in the market. privacy and individual freedoms. .

Democrats and Republicans now see Chinese business practices, including the government’s creation of heavily subsidized national champions and its acceptance of intellectual property theft, as a major factor in undermining American industry.

The Biden administration showcased one of its key elements in efforts to shape the economic environment around China — the Indo-Pacific economic framework — during Mr. Biden’s visit to Tokyo this week. The United States and 12 Asian countries will try to negotiate new agreements to create more resilient supply chains, establish new rules for how electronic data is shared and stored, reduce greenhouse gases emitted by the industry and eliminate bureaucratic barriers that impede trade, among other proposals.

But skeptics said Washington’s ability to shape trade in the Asia-Pacific region could be limited because the framework is not a traditional trade deal that offers countries tariff reductions and better access to the lucrative U.S. market. .

The Obama administration had proposed such an agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Mr. Biden had supported it. But some Democrats and Republicans in Congress who worried about its potential to send more jobs overseas have opposed it. President Donald J. Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, though other Asian countries moved with it, and China has since asked to join.


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