Billed as most comprehensive statement to date on China by President Joe Biden's administration, top diplomat Antony Blinken says, "We don't seek to block China from its role as a major power."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for vigorous competition with China to preserve the existing global order but said his country doesn't seek a "new Cold War."
In a long-awaited speech on Thursday billed as the most comprehensive statement to date on China by President Joe Biden's administration, Blinken said that Beijing posed "the most serious long-term challenge to the international order" despite months of US focus on Russia's assault on Ukraine.
"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 said at George Washington University.
"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," he said, adding, "President Biden believes this decade will be decisive."
The Biden administration recently launched a loose new trade framework across Asia and has set up a forum with the European Union to set technological standards, efforts aimed at uniting like-minded nations as China dominates new fields such as artificial intelligence.
Blinken acknowledged a growing consensus that other nations cannot change the trajectory of China, saying that under President Xi Jinping it has become "more repressive at home, more aggressive abroad."
"There is growing convergence about the need to approach relations with Beijing with more realism," he said.
But he added, "If it takes concrete action to address the concerns that we and many other countries have voiced, we will respond positively."
'No Cold War'
With no rhetorical bombast or surprises, Blinken drew an implicit contrast to the approach of the previous administration of Donald Trump, which spoke in stark terms of an all-out global conflict with China.
On trips to Africa and Latin America, where China has invested billions of dollars on infrastructure, Blinken has downplayed the competition and not asked nations to take sides.
"We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War. To the contrary, we're determined to avoid both," Blinken said in his speech.
"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," he said.
But he said that defending the global order, including international law and agreements, would "make it possible for all countries – including the United States and China – to coexist and cooperate."
He pointed to the climate crisis, saying that the United States and China – the world's two largest emitters – worked together to make progress at last year's summit in Glasgow and that a healthy competition on clean energy would have global benefits.
His willingness to cooperate comes even as he charged again that Beijing is carrying out genocide against its Uighur minority and also denounced its "brutal campaign" in Tibet and crackdown in Hong Kong.
Saying that China will "test American diplomacy like nothing we've seen before," Blinken announced the formation of a "China House" inside the State Department to coordinate policy across regions.