Blinken: No US goal for China but peace

There’s no “finish line” for U.S. foreign policy toward China besides maintaining peace, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, even if Beijing and Moscow seek to build an “illiberal” world order.
The comments came less than two weeks after Blinken made a visit to Beijing that U.S. officials described as an effort only to reopen talks with their Chinese counterparts, and which delivered little more.
Speaking at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Blinken said in the near-term and “maybe even in the lifetimes of most people in this room” there is no “clear finish line” for the United States when it comes to Beijing except to maintain peaceful relations.
“The bottom line is this: China’s not going away, and we’re not going away,” Blinken said. “We have to find a way to … coexist peacefully.”
He added that the “post-Cold War era” where “commerce ultimately geopolitical competition” was now over and that there is a “profound competition undeeway right now to shape what comes next.”
“We want to make sure that in that competition, we"re in a position of strength where we are able to shape what comes next,” Blinken said, adding that the alternative would be a new “illiberal” world order where a few world powers dictate terms to countries around them.
Taiwan at heart of dispute
Asked by CFR President Richard Haass, who hosted the event, about his comments last year that Beijing had decided that the decades-old status quo on Taiwan was no longer tenable, Blinken doubled down.
He pointed to recent Chinese military operations and exercises, “economic coercion exerted against Taiwan, and for that matter exerted against countries that have relationships with Taiwan,” and efforts to exclude Taiwan from institutions like the World Health Organization.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 19, 2023. (Leah Millis/Pool/Reuters)“All of this is a stirring of the pot. That is antithetical to the preservation of the status quo,” Blinken said. 
The United States, by contrast, always communicates “our determination to maintain the status quo,” he said, because that’s what most of the world wants in the Taiwan Strait.
He noted that “50% of commercial traffic and trade goes through that strait every single day” and 70% of the world’s microchips are made on the self-governing island that Chinese President Xi Jinping last year vowed to “reunite” with the mainland using force if necessary.
“On Taiwan, if there were to be a crisis as a result of actions that either side takes that takes that offline, you"ve got potentially a global economic crisis,” he said. “It"s one of the reasons – maybe the main reason – that country after country is going to both of us and saying we expect the responsible management of this issue to be sustained.”
But Blinken also said that any geopolitical competition with China did not mean that the United States wanted to curb its economic growth.
“It’s not in our interest to do that,” he said. 
Mixed messages
Blinken’s trip to Beijing earlier this month initially appeared to ease tensions between Washington and Beijing after nearly a year of rising discord that began with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August trip to Taiwan and peaked with the February spy balloon incident.
However, U.S. President Joe Biden angered Beijing just days later when he used a campaign event ahead of the 2024 election to call Xi a “dictator” who was “embarrassed” by the alleged Chinese spy balloon and by China’s current “real economic difficulties.”
Blinken defended Biden by saying he always spoke “candidly” and for all Americans, even as China’s foreign ministry protested the remarks.
Speaking at another campaign event in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Tuesday night, Biden questioned “China being this great power” that will be able to rewrite the international order in its favor. 
He said its efforts to do so had by contrast united “the rest of the world” against it, and he again alluded to the country’s economic difficulties.
“China has enormous problems — enormous problems,” Biden said. “I"m not going to get into it right now. But the idea that they are going to be able to do things that they thought they could do is not accurate.”
Taiwan"s Southern armored brigade demonstrates combat skills during a live-fire army exercise in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, Sept. 6, 2022. (Sam Yeh/AFP)Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Wednesday said she had not seen Biden’s remarks and appeared circumspect.
“When it comes to having problems, I suppose all countries, the U.S. included, face challenges,” Mao said, adding that China’s government was confident it was tackling issues facing the country. 
“Meanwhile, we hope the U.S. will concentrate on solving its own problems and play a constructive role in making the world stable and prosperous.”
Talk it out
At a separate event on the South China Sea dispute at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said he was encouraged about U.S.-China ties in the wake of Blinken’s trip.
He said he was only disappointed that Beijing was still denying military-to-military communications with the United States on the apparent basis that “somehow that will embolden the United States.”
“I"m a diplomat, so this should come as no surprise, I believe in diplomacy,” he said. “I believe in talking to people. I believe in keeping those channels of communication open at all times, and so we were gratified that through the secretary"s visit, I think we"ve reestablished and reopened those senior level channels of communication.”
“In the coming weeks, you"re likely to see more senior level exchanges,” Kritenbrink said, reiterating that he wished that would be extended to the military sphere. “Two militaries the size and capability of the U.S. and China, we always need to be talking to one another.” 
Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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