Blinken’s speech, the culmination of months of internal deliberations on how to approach Beijing, aims to prioritize the Chinese challenge across the range of global threats Washington faces.
“As we and our partners around the world mobilize in unprecedented ways to respond to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, we wanted to make it clear that our unwavering focus on the Indo-Pacific and the [People’s Republic of China] the challenge remains,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to offer insight into Blinken’s remarks.
Since the Bush administration, US presidents have sought to reorient US foreign and defense policy toward Asia, home to many of the world’s fastest growing economies. But geopolitical events in Europe and the Middle East have presented myriad distractions.
US officials say Biden is determined to prevent this cycle from continuing during his presidency.
“Since the start of this crisis in Ukraine, the president has been determined not to allow him to undermine our efforts elsewhere,” the official said. “In fact, he wanted to ensure that our response to Putin puts us and our allies and partners in a stronger position to meet the challenge of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. .”
Blinken’s speech at George Washington University was originally scheduled to be delivered ahead of Biden’s first trip to Asia last week, but was postponed after the secretary of state tested positive for the coronavirus.
During the president’s trip, he announced the outline of a new trade framework designed to counter China’s growing influence and strengthen U.S. economic ties with Indo-Pacific countries, including Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. and other countries that account for 40% of the world’s gross domestic product.
During his visit to Japan, Biden infuriated Beijing when he answered ‘yes’ to a reporter when asked if the United States would intervene ‘militarily’ if China attacked Taiwan – remarks that contradicted the government’s policy. Washington’s “strategic ambiguity” for decades that avoided extending an explicit security guarantee to the island.
Blinken plans to say that US policy regarding the defense of Taiwan has not changed, a second senior administration official said.
“He will reiterate that the United States remains committed to our one-China policy,” the official said.
China rebuked Biden’s early remarks, and on Monday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned that Beijing would “take firm measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests”.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has threatened to retake the island by force if necessary. Since the United States established diplomatic relations with China in 1979, Washington has steadily provided an increasing supply of military equipment to Taipei while refraining from explicitly telegraphing what it would do in the event that China tries to retake it. the island.
Blinken is also expected to discuss his “deep concerns” about human rights practices in China, including what the Biden administration sees as a campaign of “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang. – a western province of China where Beijing is waging a massive detention campaign. and the sterilization of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
“He will talk about how we are aligning our advocacy efforts with our partners,” said a third administration official.
Blinken’s speech is also expected to lay out the three key pillars of the Biden administration’s China policy: investing in American competitiveness and innovation; align U.S. efforts with those of U.S. partners and allies; and compete with Beijing “to defend our interests and advance our vision for the future,” the third administration official said.
While the speech is likely to be closely watched by foreign governments around the world as a roadmap for how Washington will engage the world’s second-largest economy, it is not expected to unveil new policies.