In his first foreign policy address, US President Biden on Thursday described China as the “most serious competitor” to the US and vowed to confront Beijing on various fronts, including human rights, intellectual property and economic policy.
Biden said his administration would, “take on directly the challenges posed [to] our prosperity, security and democratic values by our most serious competitor: China”.
“We will confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive action to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance,” Biden said in his address to State Department employees at its Foggy Bottom headquarters in Washington.
“But we are ready to work with Beijing when it is in America’s interest to do so. We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost,” he said, giving a glimpse of his administration’s policies on China.
Outlining his eagerly awaited China policy, Biden said, “that is why we have moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally and earn back our leadership position to catalyse global action on shared challenges.”
Reacting to Biden’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here on Friday: “As two major countries China and the US share broad common interests and special major responsibilities for upholding world peace stability and prosperity”.
“It is natural that we have differences but our common interests far outweigh our differences. Our cooperation can do big things conducive to the two countries and the world,” Wang said.
China heaved a huge sigh of relief over the defeat of former US president Donald Trump by Biden in the US presidential election.
Trump’s four years in power are regarded as the worst phase in China-US relations as the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by President Xi Jinping struggled to deal with what China’s officials say was the most elusive and unpredictable American leader ever.
During his tenure, Trump pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China’s military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan and describing coronavirus as “China virus” after it emerged from Wuhan in December 2019, as well as on Xinjiang and Tibet issues.
Wang in his response skirted Biden’s comments related to challenges Beijing posed but stuck to highlighting the traditional Chinese approach of win-win cooperation.
“China is committed to developing relations with theUS featuring non-conflict and non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. In the meantime, we will continue safeguarding our national sovereignty, security and development interests,” he said.
Biden’s foreign policy approach was keenly awaited in Beijing as during his campaign he identified Russia as the main problem for the US, a former President Barack Obama era foreign policy during which Beijing firmed up its position politically, economically and militarily around the world by launching its most ambitious trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
On February 2, senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi asked President Biden to reset the China-US ties damaged by Trump. Yang said that normal China-US interactions need to be restored, and “China should be seen as it is.”
The Trump administration pursued some misguided policies toward China, said Yang, a member of the Politburo of the ruling Communist Party of China, noting that the root cause for it was a strategic misjudgement by some in the US.
“They view China as a major strategic competitor, even an adversary. That, I am afraid, is historically, fundamentally and strategically wrong,” he said at a meeting here.
It is a task for both China and the US to restore the relationship to a predictable and constructive track of development, and to build a model for interaction between the two major countries that focuses on peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.
Yang said that he hopes the new administration will remove the blocks to people-to-people exchanges, such as harassing Chinese students, restricting Chinese media outlets, shutting down Confucius Institutes and suppressing Chinese companies in the US.