An increasingly powerful China is challenging the world order, acting “more repressively” at home and “more aggressively” overseas as it tests its growing influence, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, in an interview on US television.
“What we’ve witnessed over the last several years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad. That is a fact,” Blinken said in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday.
The top diplomat in the United States said China was behaving “increasingly in adversarial ways” but asked whether Washington was heading towards a military confrontation with Beijing, Blinken replied: “It’s profoundly against the interests of both China and the United States to, to get to that point, or even to head in that direction.”
Biden has identified competition with China as his administration’s greatest foreign policy challenge. In his first speech to Congress last Wednesday, he pledged to maintain a strong US military presence in the Indo-Pacific and to boost technological development in the US.
Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that in the competition to be the dominant power of the 21st century, “we welcome the competition – and that we are not looking for conflict”.
Blinken arrived in London on Sunday for a G7 foreign ministers meeting where China is one of the issues on the agenda.
During the 60 Minutes interview, Blinken said China is “the one country in the world that has the military, economic, diplomatic capacity to undermine or challenge the rules-based order that we care so much about and are determined to defend.
“Our purpose is not to contain China, to hold it back, to keep it down; it is to uphold this rules-based order that China is posing a challenge to.”
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen over the past few years over issues from trade to human rights, including what Washington has described as genocide against the mostly Muslim Uighurs in the far western region of Xinjiang, the crackdown on pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong and the self-ruled island of Taiwan.
Last month, Blinken said the US was concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the western Pacific by force.
The US has a longstanding commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to ensure the island has the ability to defend itself and to sustain peace and security in the western Pacific, Blinken said.
Taiwan has complained over the past few months of repeated missions by China’s air force near the island, which China claims as its own.