Blinken naming China as challenge ‘an unsurprising display of tough line,’ shows decline of US: experts
Published: Mar 04, 2021 09:05 PM
Antony Blinken Photo: AFP

Antony Blinken Photo: AFP

Tackling China was mentioned as one of the eight top priorities of the Joe Biden administration, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in his first major address on Wednesday, at a time when the US is facing domestic disorder regarding epidemic, economy and political division.

Some experts view Blinken's speech as an unsurprising vow to US people to display a tough line against China, whose relationship with the US was described by Blinken as the "biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century."

As one of the top eight priorities including democracy, immigrants, epidemic, economic crisis, Blinken said the China-US relationship will be "competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be," a consistent pledge that team Biden has made since they won the US presidential election.

Focusing on competition rather than confrontation or cooperation, Blinken said that China is the only country that has the power to challenge "the stable and open international system," including rules, values and relations, operating in a way that US wants to see.

Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday that Blinken's speech was more of an oath to show the US public that the Biden administration would not compromise with China as former US president Donald Trump has said it would.

China's policies toward the US are consistent and stable, and the key point for peacefully coexistence is mutual trust, said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress on Thursday.

Diao Daming, an expert on US studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday that "Blinken's choice of 'competitive' rhetoric is a pragmatic view of the US' declining power, feeling that they should play it steady and make themselves stronger… Because the past has shown that with the way of confrontation, Americans cannot achieve their goals."

Diao said Blinken's speech is heavy on ideology and values, and he has been tough on so-called human rights.

"But that doesn't mean the two countries are headed for confrontation, which depends on the overall structure of US diplomacy," Diao said.

In Biden's first foreign policy address in February, he put forward his "foreign policy for the middle class," which is similar to the core content of Blinken's speech.

"Wherever the rules for international security and the global economy are being written, America will be there, and the interests of the American people will be front and center," Blinken said in his speech.

"This shows that the primary purpose of the US' foreign policy is to strengthen itself, whether in science and technology, economy, immigration, epidemic or values," Diao said.

"If serving the Americans is truly the top priority of the Biden administration, it means the US is unlikely to have significant investment in the security field and will not choose confrontation, as its cost would be uncontrollable," Diao noted.

In the event of another confrontation between the two countries, experts said economy and trade will be the first area to bear the brunt.

"Meeting the needs of the US people means delivering real benefits financially. For example, the list of tariffs, sanctions and entities left by the Trump administration may be under review for a long time, which will serve as leverage for Biden," Diao said.

Diao noted that the US is also seeking the construction of "resilient, diverse, and secure" supply chains, to wean itself off dependence on China. And the Biden administration is likely to continue to suppress China, promoting the theory of "China threat," in the battle of "system" competition.

The US may also maintain its presence and military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and Indo-Pacific, and seek a controllable situation while putting pressure on China, analysts said.

Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, responded to Blinken's speech at a routine press briefing Thursday, saying that China's development is a contribution to world peace and development, rather than a challenge.

"China is committed to developing a relationship with the US featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation … At the same time, China will continue to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests," Wang said.

China hopes the US will view China and China-US relations in an objective and rational way, follow the trend of the time, abandon the outdated "zero-sum mentality," adopt a rational and pragmatic policy toward China and bring China-US relations back to the right track, Wang said.