In a Wednesday speech before the State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China presents the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century” and the Biden administration plans to work with allies to counter China’s growing global influence.
Blinken named China as the eighth and final foreign policy priority that President Joe Biden’s administration aims to address.
“Several countries present us with serious challenges, including Russia, Iran, North Korea, and there are serious crises we have to deal with, including in Yemen, Ethiopia and Burma, but the challenge posed by China is different,” Blinken continued. “China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system.”
Blinken said the U.S. relationship with China will be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be.” Blinken said in all scenarios, the U.S. must engage with China from a position of strength.
“That requires working with our allies and partners, not denigrating them,” Blinken said. “Because our combined weight is much harder to ignore. It requires engaging in diplomacy and in international organizations.”
Throughout his speech, Blinken noted a U.S. withdrawal from international organizations during President Donald Trump’s administration, and addressing China, he claimed, “where we have pulled back, China has filled in.”
Blinken said the U.S. should stand up for its values in addressing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, where both the Trump and Biden administration have said genocide is taking place. “If we don’t, China will act with even greater impunity.”
Listing off the preceding seven foreign policy priorities of the Biden administration, Blinken listed several priorities that overlap with existing U.S. concerns about China.
The first priority Blinken listed is to stop the spread of COVID-19 and strengthen global health security, “including the tools to predict, prevent and stop pandemics and a firm global commitment to share accurate and timely information so that a crisis like this never happens again.” The outbreak of COVID-19 has been widely attributed to Wuhan, China, and China and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been accused of concealing information about the transmissibility of the initial outbreak.
The second priority Blinken listed is to counter the economic impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the efforts to restore economies after COVID-19 will also work to address intellectual property theft and currency manipulation, both practices that the U.S. has accused China of taking part in recent years.
The third priority Blinken listed is to strengthen and promote democracy around the world, incuding by protecing elections and countering “the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that there’s is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes.”
The fourth priority Blinken listed is to promote a “humane and effective immigration system” in the U.S. The fifth priority is to revitalize U.S. alliances, and the sixth priority is to address climate change.
The seventh he listed is to advance U.S. leadership in the technology sector. Blinken said emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can shape the future of the global economy and the way wars are fought. Blinken said some countries “don’t always have good intentions” with those emerging technologies.
“We need to make sure technologies protect your privacy, make the world safer and healthier and make democracies more resilient,” Blinken said, adding that the U.S. must strengthen cyber defenses to protect against hacking efforts like those attributed to Russia and China that have targeted U.S. government agencies and business firms.