Secretary of State Antony Binken revealed some of President Joe Biden’s still-classified new strategy for countering China in a Thursday speech at George Washington University.
“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,” Blinken warned from the start of his speech. “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.”
“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,” Blinken said, adding that the U.S. will “invest, align, and compete” and work together with China “where our interests come together.”
Blinken said the Biden administration has developed and begun to implement its classified China strategy over the last year. He outlined a plan that would not stop China from pursuing its peaceful economic goals, but that would bring the rest of the international community together to strengthen their own economic footing. Blinken laid out areas where the U.S. will continue to challenge and develop means of countering China militarily while bolstering areas where the U.S. and other countries can better compete economically with China.
“We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War. To the contrary, we’re determined to avoid both. We don’t seek to block China from its role as a major power, nor to stop China – or any other country, for that matter – from growing their economy or advancing the interests of their people,” Blinken said. “But we will defend and strengthen the international law, agreements, principles, and institutions that maintain peace and security, protect the rights of individuals and sovereign nations, and make it possible for all countries – including the United States and China – to coexist and cooperate.”
Militarily, Blinken said the U.S. Department of Defense is continuing to treat China as its “pacing threat.” He said the DoD is moving military investment away from “platforms that were designed for the conflicts of the 20th century toward asymmetric systems that are longer-range, harder to find, easier to move.”
“We’re developing new concepts to guide how we conduct military operations. And we’re diversifying our force posture and global footprint, fortifying our networks, critical civilian infrastructure, and space-based capabilities,” he said. “We’ll help our allies and partners in the region with their own asymmetric capabilities, too.”
On the economic front, Blinken noted China’s practice of dumping cheap steel into the international market. Blinken said that while U.S. steel production is centered around market-oriented, Chinese firms can produce cheap steel at a loss knowing the Chinese government will give them more bank credit, allowing them to continue selling steel without worrying about making a profit. This, Blinken said, has helped China gain control of about half of the global steel market.
“Economic manipulations like these have cost American workers millions of jobs, and they’ve harmed the workers and firms of countries around the world,” Blinken said. “We will push back on market-distorting policies and practices, like subsidies and market access barriers, which China’s government has used for years to gain competitive advantage.”
“We’ll boost supply chain security and resilience by reshoring production or sourcing materials from other countries in sensitive sectors like pharmaceuticals and critical minerals, so that we’re not dependent on any one supplier,” Blinken continued. “We’ll stand together with others against economic coercion and intimidation. And we will work to ensure that U.S. companies don’t engage in commerce that facilitates or benefits from human rights abuses, including forced labor. In short, we’ll fight for American workers and industry with every tool we have – just as we know that our partners will fight for their workers.”
Blinken added, later in the speech, that since the start of the Biden administration, they’ve worked to “re-energize” America’s network of alliances and partnerships and are standing up new partnerships, such as the Australia, United Kingdom, U.S. trilateral security pact, known as AUKUS. This week, as Biden visited Japan, he launched the new “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity” (IPEF) with Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“IPEF, as we call it, renews American economic leadership but adapts it for the 21st century by addressing cutting-edge issues like the digital economy, supply chains, clean energy, infrastructure, and corruption,” Blinken said. “A dozen countries, including India, have already joined. Together, IPEF members make up more than a third of the global economy.”
Blinken said partnerships like those in the Indo-Pacific region don’t come with the expectation that other nations will view China the way the U.S. does. Instead, he said it’s “about giving them a choice” and offering an alternative from investment that “leaves countries in debt, stokes corruption, harms the environment, fails to create local jobs or growth, and compromises countries’ exercise of their sovereignty.”