Beijing and Washington locked in a war of ‘values’

China ‘has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad’ under President Xi says Blinken

It was always going to be a conflict of “values” amid the shadows of a feared Cold War. 

In a keynote Washington policy address on relations between the United States and China, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked about the stark realities facing the world.

He touched briefly on President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and the illegal invasion and occupation by Russian forces of a European “sovereign state” during his speech at George Washington University.

But his sights were firmly set on Beijing and President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian Communist Party of China, a close ally of Moscow.

“Even as President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order – and that’s posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Blinken said earlier this week.

“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. 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 added.

Human rights

Covering a range of issues from flaunting the “rules-based international order” to “human rights,” and economic and military “coercion,” Blinken reiterated that Washington was “not looking for conflict or a new Cold War.”

But he also warned of the threats posed by Xi and the Party elite to the “international order” and laid out moves to counter Beijing’s influence.

“China’s transformation … [was] made possible by the stability and opportunity that the international order [provided]. Arguably no country on Earth has benefited more from that than China,” Blinken stressed.

“But rather than using its power to reinforce and revitalize the laws, agreements, principles, and institutions that enabled its success so other countries can benefit from them too, Beijing is undermining it,” he said.

In response, the state-run China Daily described the address as “Washington’s worldview.” It argued that it was “dangerously myopic” with a “fixation” on containing the world’s second-largest economy.

[China is also] circumventing or breaking trade rules, harming workers and companies.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State

“There was nothing in it that hasn’t been heard before … particularly when placed in the context of US President Joe Biden’s just-concluded Asia trip,” China Daily stated in an editorial on Friday.

“The diplomatic deployments Biden made personally in Seoul and Tokyo revealed the White House’s fixation on containing China, which since the Donald Trump days has been identified as the US’ foremost rival,” it added.

Blinken bullet points:

  • China is a global power with extraordinary reach, influence, and ambition. 
  • With world-class cities and public transportation networks, it’s home to some of the world’s largest tech companies.
  • Now, it seeks to dominate the technologies and industries of the future. 
  • Its rapidly modernized military intends to become a top-tier fighting force with global reach. 
  • And it has announced its ambition to create a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power.
  • But rather than using its power to reinforce and revitalize the laws that enabled its success, Beijing is undermining them. 
  • Under President Xi, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.

Alternative view: “The diplomatic rhetoric still requests Beijing to submit to Washington’s hegemonic demands and this speech on China policy follows Washington’s inconsistency between minds and words. It wants to [take] the international moral high ground while putting the interests of the US first,” Global Times, owned by the Party’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, stated in an editorial. 

Blinken’s view: “Beijing has perfected mass surveillance within China and exported that technology to more than 80 countries [and has advanced] unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, undermining peace and security.”

Breaking bad: “[China is also] circumventing or breaking trade rules, harming workers and companies [not just] in the United States but also around the world,” Blinken said.

What rules: “We all know that any country should act based on the international order, but when the US says ‘abiding by international rules,’ it actually means China should abide by US rules,” Wang Yiwei, the director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told Global Times.

The Party is over: “We have profound differences with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government.  But those differences are between governments and systems – not between our people,” Blinken said.

China Factor comment: Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin later accused Blinken of “smearing” China. In reality, Xi and his Party cronies have already trashed the country’s image in the eyes of the democratic world.