The United States has to find a way to “coexist peacefully” with China amid intense competition, said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, noting that Washington is not economically “decoupling” from Beijing and that bilateral trade last year hit a record high.
“China is not going away. We are not going away,” Blinken told a New York audience during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “We have to find a way to coexist and coexist peacefully.”
Days after Blinken concluded his meetings in Beijing with senior Chinese officials, he said the U.S. relationship with China is “a long-term competition” without a “clear finish line.”
As the United States is considering measures to limit the flow of U.S. money and technology to China because of national security concerns, the top U.S. diplomat said, “we want to make sure that in that competition, we're in a position of strength” and “able to shape what comes next.”
Yellen’s China visit
Blinken’s remarks came ahead of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s expected trip to Beijing in the coming weeks. He highlighted the fact that bilateral trade between the two countries continues to expand despite tensions over issues such as advanced semiconductors and Beijing’s persecution of Uyghurs.
“Our trade with China last year reached the highest level ever. We had more foreign direct investment going to China last year than any year since 2014,” said Blinken, adding U.S. export controls and sanctions on Chinese entities affect only a very small fraction of companies operating in China.
Yellen has warned of the economic downside of decoupling with China and called for a deepening economic relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
But U.S. officials are also facing tough questions from critics who want the Biden administration to take a harder position on China.
This week, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley a 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, called for Washington to revoke China’s permanent normal trade relations status until the Beijing government helps eradicate the flow of chemicals used to create fentanyl.
In an event hosted by the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, Haley said she would push American companies to leave China.
“China is much more than just a mere competitor. Communist China is an enemy. It is the most dangerous foreign threat we've faced since the Second World War,” she said.
In Beijing last week, Blinken said the U.S. is concerned with China’s military provocations in the Taiwan Strait as Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy, plans to hold a presidential election in 2024.
Blinken also reiterated to China that the U.S. remains opposed to any unilateral changes to the status quo, expects the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences, and does not support Taiwan independence.
On Wednesday, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, asked Blinken why Washington can’t communicate to China with greater certainty that “we are there for Taiwan if they [China] use coercion."
"I think it's evident not only in what we're saying, but also in what we're doing, that we are there for Taiwan," Blinken responded. "Under the Taiwan Relations Act, we've had a long-standing policy of making sure that we could do what's necessary to help Taiwan defend itself.”
Blinken added that China’s “deployment of forces, the exercises, the missile tests” since 2016, “economic coercion exerted against Taiwan,” and its efforts to “pry Taiwan out of the international system” are “antithetical to the preservation of the status quo.”
The People’s Republic of China claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The U.S. “acknowledges” but does not “endorse” the PRC’s position.
The State Department has said the U.S. does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty under Washington’s “One China” policy.
Some information for this report came from Reuters. VOA's Mandarin Service contributed to this report.