For the United States, China is the “biggest challenge” of the century

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is a clear message. An unambiguous position taken. On Wednesday, on the occasion of his first foreign policy speech since Joe Biden took office, Antony Blinkin named the competition with China as “the greatest geopolitical challenge of the XXIe century ”and a priority of Joe Biden’s foreign policy, promising to combine firmness and dialogue. “Several countries represent major challenges for us, including Russia, Iran and North Korea,” he stressed. “The challenge posed by China is different. China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power capable of seriously undermining the stable and open international system, all the rules, values ​​and relations that make the world the way we want it to be ”, said added the head of US diplomacy.

The secretary of state promised that relations with Beijing would be a mixture of “competition when it is healthy”, “collaboration when it is possible” and “antagonism when it is necessary”. The confrontation between the two leading world powers has grown under the presidency of Donald Trump. Initially mainly confined to the trade war, it turned to a standoff on all issues, from human rights to the management of Covid-19, including the fate of Hong Kong or the accusations of military expansionism in the China Sea. southern.

Under the leadership of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a hawk, tensions have resulted in an unprecedented crisis resembling a new cold war. Antony Blinken pledged to “engage with China from a position of strength”, seeking common ground to fight climate change, strengthen health security and promote non-proliferation.

A “real strength”

This “position of strength” to be regained is the key message of President Biden’s foreign policy guidelines released by the White House on Wednesday, which emphasizes the need to “revitalize the unparalleled web of alliances of America ”and to restore the image of democracy. Donald Trump’s diplomatic doctrine, borrowed from his distant Republican predecessor Ronald Reagan, was also “peace by force”. But the new Democratic team ensures that it only had “strength” in name.

“The real strength is not the boastfulness and the chin-banging. It does not rely solely on military power, ”criticized Antony Blinken. This means defending human rights, but also “working with our allies and partners without denigrating them, because our combined weight makes it much more difficult for China to ignore us,” he insisted. The Biden administration thus elevates the “Quad”, this anti-Beijing alliance which associates it with Australia, South Korea and Japan, to the rank of “America’s main strategic asset”, to the same rank. than NATO.

“Real strength” also requires “working within international organizations, because, when we left them, China filled the void,” continued Antony Blinken while Joe Biden returned to the Paris agreement on the climate and the World Health Organization (WHO), whose door his predecessor had slammed. Finally, it means investing in American technology “because when we do that we can beat anybody”.

Diplomacy as a priority

In its document, the White House undertakes to “retaliate” whenever the Chinese attitude “directly threatens” American “interests and values”, in particular as regards “unfair and illegal commercial practices” or “cybercrime”. “. “We will put ourselves in a position, diplomatically and militarily, to defend our allies,” she also warns. Among other priorities, she lists the fight against the pandemic and against global warming, as well as the defense of democracy, which will be the subject of a “summit” at an unspecified date.

“We are not going to promote democracy by costly military interventions or by trying to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force”, assured the minister, estimating that these “tactics” of the past had “not worked”. “The president has promised that diplomacy will always come first”, although he “will never hesitate to use force when American lives or vital interests are at stake,” he added.

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