U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the People’s Republic of China (PRC) poses a challenge to the United States national interests in the coming years but despite “the emergence of clearly adversarial aspects,” there are also “cooperative aspects” in the bilateral relationship such as fighting climate change and promoting global health.
The top U.S. diplomat also renewed the U.S. commitment to the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait amid a changing Chinese approach to Taiwan.
PRC has deemed the status quo as “no longer acceptable” and is seeking to bring the self-ruled democracy under Beijing’s control “on a much faster timeline” and possibly by force, said Blinken.
His remarks come as China’s Communist Party Congress is poised to hand a third five-year term to CCP’s General Secretary Xi Jinping this month.
“The competitive aspect (of the U.S.-China relationship) is front and center,” said Blinken Monday during a discussion with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Stanford, California.
“We’ve seen a very different China emerge in recent years under Xi Jinping’s leadership. It is more repressive at home. It’s more aggressive abroad, and in many instances, that poses a challenge to our own interests, as well as to our own values,” said Blinken. The White House national security strategy identifies China as a fierce competitor to the United States.
But Blinken added some of the “big problems” such as climate and global health are “a lot harder to solve” if the U.S. and China “are not actually engaged in” cooperation.
In Beijing, Xi laid out 15 main points in a speech to the nearly 2,300 CCP delegates Sunday, vowing to “resolutely safeguard national security and social stability,” realize the goal to modernize the Chinese military, and push for the unification of “the motherland.” Xi was referring to bringing Taiwan under PRC’s control.
“We have resolutely waged a major struggle against separatism and interference, demonstrating our strong determination and ability to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity and oppose Taiwan independence,” said Xi.
At Stanford, Blinken warned of daunting consequences were there a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
“The amount of commercial traffic that goes to the (Taiwan) Strait every single day and the impact on economies around the world is enormous. If that were to be disrupted as a result of a crisis, countries around the world would suffer,” said Blinken.
The chief U.S. diplomat also added if the semiconductor production in Taiwan were disrupted due to a crisis, there would be “an economic crisis around the world.”
“Xi Jinping has been taking China from authoritarianism to a form of techno totalitarianism,” Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, told VOA.
Daly predicts an even more “insular” China that isolates itself from “foreign ideas” and “foreign influences” under Xi’s leadership in the coming years.
“U.S.-China relations are lower than they’ve ever been since the relationship was established in 1979, and in my view, they have not yet found bottom,” Daly told VOA.
Others, including Charles Edel, Australia chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, saw no sign of an improved U.S.-China relationship.
“Even though we have words for cooperation and the United States will continue holding out the prospect for cooperation, an increasingly authoritarian and assertive Xi Jinping, who is about to ensconce himself in power for rather [an] unprecedented third term, combined with a much more competitive approach from the United States, both in the national security strategy, but some of the active measures that the government has been taking over the last weeks and months, mean that we’re heading for a much more contentious period,” Edel told VOA.
Miles Yu, former State Department senior adviser and now director of the China Center at Hudson Institute, told VOA he did not expect any surprises coming from China’s 20th Party Congress and that Xi is on his way to a third five-year term.
“If Xi Jinping does get his [wish] and he [continues] to rule China as a supreme dictator, which it is very likely because in that kind of system, there is no tangible dissent powerful enough to change the final outcome,” Yu said.
In a recent statement, Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, said as “Xi Jinping consolidates his power,” “the CCP’s widespread campaign of oppression and economic instability will continue.”
Almost half of the global container fleet and 88% of the world’s largest ships by tonnage passed through the Taiwan Strait this year, according to senior U.S. officials.
For decades, the U.S. has been clear that its decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979 rested on the expectation that “the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means,” as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
The U.S. also does not support Taiwan independence.