Blinken: The US doesn’t have ‘the luxury of not dealing with China’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday expressed optimism about the United States’s ability to stand up to China as it works to grow its influence and become the world’s dominant power.
In a wide-ranging interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, Blinken told CBS’s Norah O’Donnell that the U.S. does not have “the luxury of not dealing with China.”
“There are real complexities to the relationship, whether it’s the adversarial piece, whether it’s the competitive piece, whether it’s the cooperative piece,” Blinken said.
Blinken said China is the “one country in the world that has the military, economic, diplomatic capacity to undermine or challenge” the rules-based international order, which is the written and unwritten code that determines how nations deal with each other.
He stressed that the U.S. is not trying to “contain China,” but instead “uphold this rules-based order.”
“Anyone who poses a challenge to that order, we’re going to stand up and defend it,” he added.
Blinken did say, however, when asked by O’Donnell that he has never seen China as assertive or aggressive militarily as it is now.
He said the country is “acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad.”
The secretary of State also said it is “profoundly against the interests” of both China and the U.S. to get to the point of military confrontation, or “even to head in that direction.”
O’Donnell noted that Chinese fighter jets have been increasingly present above the western Pacific, where the U.S. Navy also has a presence, and that China’s President Xi Jinping unveiled three new warships this past week to patrol the South China Sea.
When asked what he thinks China’s goal is, Blinken said it has to do with being “the dominant country in the world.”
“I think that over time, China believes that it can be and should be and will be the dominant country in the world,” Blinken told O’Donnell.
When pressed by O’Donnell on the expectation that China’s gross domestic product will surpass that of the U.S. as early as 2028, Blinken pointed to the country’s large population, concluding “Well, it’s a large country, it’s got a lot of people.”
He said that China becoming the wealthiest country would not necessarily make it the most powerful, concluding that it “depends on how it uses that wealth,” citing the country’s aging population and “significant environmental problems.”
He said a country’s human resources and ability to maximize potential are what “really makes the wealth of a nation.”
Blinken also weighed in on the human rights violations against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, which the Biden administration has labeled a “genocide,” and challenged China’s argument that there is a “terrorism threat” coming from the group.
“We’ve made clear that we see a genocide having taken place against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. More than a million people have been put into, choose your term, concentration camps, reeducation camps, internment camps,” Blinken said.
“When Beijing says, ‘Oh, there’s a terrorism threat,’ which we don’t see. It’s not coming from a million people,” he continued.
The “60 Minutes” interview also covered the trade secrets and intellectual property China has stolen from the U.S. When pressed by O’Donnell on if those actions sound like those of an enemy, Blinken refused to go that far, instead calling it the action of someone who is attempting to compete “unfairly” and in “adversarial ways.”
“But we’re much more effective and stronger when we’re bringing like-minded and similarly aggrieved countries together to say to Beijing, ‘This can’t stand, and it won’t stand,’ ” Blinken continued.
Blinken said that is the message that Biden has delivered to Xi, making clear that the U.S. has “real concerns” about actions China has taken.
“Did President Biden tell President Xi to cut it out?” O’Donnell asked.
“President Biden made clear that in a number of areas we have real concerns about the actions that China has taken, and that includes in the economic area, and that includes the theft of intellectual property,” Blinken responded.
Biden spoke to Xi for the first time during his presidency in February, on a phone call that lasted two hours.
In a readout, the White House said that Biden “committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies.”
“President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” the readout added.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.