Antony Blinken accuses China of undermining global order in major policy speech

  • China ‘has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad’ under President Xi Jinping’s rule, US secretary of state says
  • Blinken also calls for more dialogue with Beijing to find climate change and Covid-19 pandemic solutions

China‘s government is undermining the global order that allowed the country to flourish economically, which requires Washington to work more closely with allies and other countries to counter Beijing’s influence, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.

“China’s transformation … [was] made possible by the stability and opportunity that the international order provides,” Blinken said in a long-awaited policy speech delivered at George Washington University. “Arguably no country on Earth has benefited more from that than China.”

“But rather than using its power to reinforce and revitalise the laws, agreements, principles, and institutions that enabled its success so other countries can benefit from them too, Beijing is undermining it,” Blinken added. “Under President Xi [Jinping], the ruling Chinese Communist Party has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.”

In the wide-ranging speech that ran for 45 minutes, Blinken also pledged that US President Joe Biden’s administration will work to “shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open and inclusive international system”.
The address, originally scheduled for May 5 but postponed because of Blinken’s Covid-19 diagnosis the day before, followed a series of meetings involving Biden and leaders throughout the Indo-Pacific.

In the past two weeks, Biden has hosted Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders in Washington, travelled to Seoul and Tokyo for bilateral meetings and took part in the second Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) leaders’ meeting.

In February, Biden introduced his Indo-Pacific strategy that aimed to renew American economic and security commitments to the region. In Japan on Sunday, Biden announced the 12 nations that have joined his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – the economic pillar of the strategy to counter Beijing in the region.

Relations also frayed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, as China was unwilling to condemn Moscow’s attack and said it would not join in sanctions against Russia from countries including the US.

Along with a long list of grievances voiced repeatedly since Biden took office last year, Blinken called for more dialogue with Beijing to find solutions for the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and other global problems, insisting that Washington is “determined” to avoid “conflict or a new Cold War”.

Relations between China and the US have sunk to the lowest level in decades over issues including trade, human rights and cybersecurity. The United States has condemned China’s actions in Hong Kong, the South China Sea and its treatment of the Uygur minority in Xinjiang and urged Beijing to follow international rules for fair trade.

Beijing, which has denied all allegations of abuse against Uygurs, has also accused Washington of “interfering in domestic affairs” and undermining global stability with alliances like the Quad and Aukus, a military alliance with Britain and Australia.

Addressing the issue of Taiwan, one of the most pressing areas of friction, Blinken said that “we oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side” and called regular People’s Liberation Army fighter jet sorties near the island “deeply destabilising”.

“We do not support Taiwan independence and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” he said.

Blinken also pledged to “uphold our commitments in the Taiwan Relations Act to assist Taiwan in maintaining a substantive self-defence capability”.

Washington’s stance on Taiwan has become more pressing since Biden’s comments on Monday that the US would defend Taiwan if China tried to take it by force provoked a stern response from Beijing, which considers the self-ruled island a breakaway province.

Blinken did not comment Thursday on how the US would respond in such a scenario.

Authors: Kinling Lo, Robert Delaney, SCMP

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