May 26, 2022
The George Washington University
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Good morning.
It’s a real pleasure to be here at The George Washington University. This is an institution that draws outstanding students and scholars from around the world and where the most urgent challenges that we face as a country and a planet are studied and debated. So thank you for having us here today.
And I especially want to thank our friends at the Asia Society, dedicated to forging closer ties with the countries and people of Asia to try to enhance peace, prosperity, freedom, equality, sustainability. Thank you for hosting us today, but thank you for your leadership every day. Kevin Rudd, Wendy Cutler, Danny Russel – all colleagues, all thought leaders, but also doers, and it’s always wonderful to be with you.
And I have to say I am really grateful, Senator Romney, for your presence here today – a man, a leader, that I greatly admire, a person of tremendous principle, who has been leading on the subject that we’re going to talk about today. Senator, thank you for your presence.
And I’m also delighted to see so many members of the diplomatic corps because diplomacy is the indispensable tool for shaping our shared future.
In the past two years we’ve come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future global health emergencies, rebuild from economic shocks, from supply-chain disruptions to debt crises, and take on climate change, and reimagine an energy future that’s cleaner, more secure, and more affordable.
The common denominator across these efforts is the simple fact that none of us can meet these challenges alone. We have to face them together.
That’s why we’ve put diplomacy back at the center of American foreign policy, to help us realize the future that Americans and people around the world seek – one where technology is used to lift people up, not suppress them; where trade and commerce support workers, raise incomes, create opportunity; where universal human rights are respected; countries are secure from coercion and aggression, and people, ideas, goods, and capital move freely; and where nations can both forge their own paths and work together effectively in common cause.
To build that future, we must defend and reform the rules-based international order – the system of laws, agreements, principles, and institutions that the world came together to build after two world wars to manage relations between states, to prevent conflict, to uphold the rights of all people.
Its founding documents include the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrined concepts like self-determination, sovereignty, the peaceful settlement of disputes. These are not Western constructs. They are reflections of the world’s shared aspirations.
In the decades since, despite daunting challenges and despite the gap between our ideals and some of the results we’ve achieved, the countries of the world have avoided another world war and armed conflict between nuclear powers. We’ve built a global economy that lifted billions of people out of poverty. We’ve advanced human rights as never before.
Now, as we look to the future, we want not just to sustain the international order that made so much of that progress possible, but to modernize it, to make sure that it represents the interests, the values, the hopes of all nations, big and small, from every region; and furthermore, that it can meet the challenges that we face now and will face in the future, many of which are beyond what the world could have imagined seven decades ago.
But that outcome is not guaranteed because the foundations of the international order are under serious and sustained challenge.
Russian President Vladimir Putin poses a clear and present threat. In attacking Ukraine three months ago, he also attacked the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, enshrined in the UN Charter, to protect all countries from being conquered or coerced. That’s why so many countries have united to oppose this aggression because they see it as a direct assault on the foundation of their own peace and security.
Ukraine is fighting valiantly to defend its people and its independence with unprecedented assistance from the United States and countries around the world. And while the war is not over, President Putin has failed to achieve a single one of his strategic aims. Instead of erasing Ukraine’s independence, he strengthened it. Instead of dividing NATO, he’s united it. Instead of asserting Russia’s strength, he’s undermined it. And instead of weakening the international order, he has brought countries together to defend it.
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.
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.
China is also integral to the global economy and to our ability to solve challenges from climate to COVID. Put simply, the United States and China have to deal with each other for the foreseeable future.
That’s why this is one of the most complex and consequential relationships of any that we have in the world today.
Over the last year, the Biden administration has developed and implemented a comprehensive strategy to harness our national strengths and our unmatched network of allies and partners to realize the future that we seek.
We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War. To the contrary, we’re determined to avoid both.
We don’t seek to block China from its role as a major power, nor to stop China – or any other country, for that matter – from growing their economy or advancing the interests of their people.
But we will defend and strengthen the international law, agreements, principles, and institutions that maintain peace and security, protect the rights of individuals and sovereign nations, and make it possible for all countries – including the United States and China – to coexist and cooperate.
Now, the China of today is very different from the China of 50 years ago, when President Nixon broke decades of strained relations to become the first U.S. president to visit the country.
Then, China was isolated and struggling with widespread poverty and hunger.
Now, China is a global power with extraordinary reach, influence, and ambition. It’s the second largest economy, with world-class cities and public transportation networks. It’s home to some of the world’s largest tech companies and it seeks to dominate the technologies and industries of the future. It’s rapidly modernized its military and 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.
China’s transformation is due to the talent, the ingenuity, the hard work of the Chinese people. It was also made possible by the stability and opportunity that the international order provides. Arguably, no country on Earth has benefited more from that than China.
But rather than using its power to reinforce and revitalize the laws, the agreements, the principles, the institutions that enabled its success so that other countries can benefit from them, too, Beijing is undermining them. Under President Xi, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.
We see that in how Beijing has perfected mass surveillance within China and exported that technology to more than 80 countries; how its advancing unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, undermining peace and security, freedom of navigation, and commerce; how it’s circumventing or breaking trade rules, harming workers and companies in the United States but also around the world; and how it purports to champion sovereignty and territorial integrity while standing with governments that brazenly violate them.
Even while Russia was clearly mobilizing to invade Ukraine, President Xi and President Putin declared that the friendship between their countries was – and I quote – “without limits.” Just this week, as President Biden was visiting Japan, China and Russia conducted a strategic bomber patrol together in the region.
Beijing’s defense of President Putin’s war to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and secure a sphere of influence in Europe should raise alarm bells for all of us who call the Indo-Pacific region home.
For these reasons and more, this is a charged moment for the world. And at times like these, diplomacy is vital. It’s how we make clear our profound concerns, better understand each other’s perspective, and have no doubt about each other’s intentions. We stand ready to increase our direct communication with Beijing across a full range of issues. And we hope that that can happen.
But we cannot rely on Beijing to change its trajectory. So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open, inclusive international system.
President Biden believes this decade will be decisive. The actions that we take at home and with countries worldwide will determine whether our shared vision of the future will be realized.
To succeed in this decisive decade, the Biden administration’s strategy can be summed up in three words – “invest, align, compete.”
We will invest in the foundations of our strength here at home – our competitiveness, our innovation, our democracy.
We will align our efforts with our network of allies and partners, acting with common purpose and in common cause.
And harnessing these two key assets, we’ll compete with China to defend our interests and build our vision for the future.
We take on this challenge with confidence. Our country is endowed with many strengths. We have peaceful neighbors, a diverse and growing population, abundant resources, the world’s reserve currency, the most powerful military on Earth, and a thriving culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that, for example, produced multiple effective vaccines now protecting people worldwide from COVID-19.
And our open society, at its best, attracts flows of talent and investment and has a time-tested capacity for reinvention, rooted in our democracy, empowering us to meet whatever challenges we face.
First, on investing in our strength.
After the Second World War, as we and our partners were building the rules-based order, our federal government was also making strategic investments in scientific research, education, infrastructure, our workforce, creating millions of middle-class jobs and decades of prosperity and technology leadership. But we took those foundations for granted. And so it’s time to get back to basics.
The Biden administration is making far-reaching investments in our core sources of national strength – starting with a modern industrial strategy to sustain and expand our economic and technological influence, make our economy and supply chains more resilient, sharpen our competitive edge.
Last year, President Biden signed into law the largest infrastructure investment in our history: to modernize our highways, our ports, airports, rail, and bridges; to move goods to market faster, to boost our productivity; to expand high-speed internet to every corner of the country; to draw more businesses and more jobs to more parts of America.
We’re making strategic investments in education and worker training, so that American workers – the best in the world – can design, build, and operate the technologies of the future.
Because our industrial strategy centers on technology, we want to invest in research, development, advanced manufacturing. Sixty years ago, our government spent more than twice as much on research as a percentage of our economy as we do now – investments that, in turn, catalyzed private-sector innovation. It’s how we won the space race, invented the semiconductor, built the internet. We used to rank first in the world in R&D as a proportion of our GDP – now we’re ninth. Meanwhile, China has risen from eighth place to second.
With bipartisan congressional support, we’ll reverse these trends and make historic investments in research and innovation, including in fields like artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum computing. These are areas that Beijing is determined to lead – but given America’s advantages, the competition is ours to lose, not only in terms of developing new technologies but also in shaping how they’re used around the world, so that they’re rooted in democratic values, not authoritarian ones.
The leadership – Senator Romney and others – the House and Senate have passed bills to support this agenda, including billions to produce semiconductors here and to strengthen other critical supply chains. Now we need Congress to send the legislation to the President for his signature.
We can get this done, and it can’t wait – supply chains are moving now, and if we don’t draw them here, they’ll be established somewhere else. As President Biden has said, the Chinese Communist Party is lobbying against this legislation – because there’s no better way to enhance our global standing and influence than to deliver on our domestic renewal. These investments will not only make America stronger; they’ll make us a stronger partner and ally as well.
One of the most powerful, even magical things about the United States is that we have long been a destination for talented, driven people from every part of the planet. That includes millions of students from China, who have enriched our communities and forged lifelong bonds with Americans. Last year, despite the pandemic, we issued more than 100,000 visas to Chinese students in just four months – our highest rate ever. We’re thrilled that they’ve chosen to study in the United States – we’re lucky to have them.
And we’re lucky when the best global talent not only studies here but stays here – as more than 80 percent of Chinese students who pursue science and technology PhDs in the United States have done in recent years. They help drive innovation here at home, and that benefits all of us. We can stay vigilant about our national security without closing our doors.
We also know from our history that when we’re managing a challenging relationship with another government, people from that country or with that heritage can be made to feel that they don’t belong here – or that they’re our adversaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chinese Americans made invaluable contributions to our country; they’ve done so for generations. Mistreating someone of Chinese descent goes against everything we stand for as a country – whether a Chinese national visiting or living here, or a Chinese American, or any other Asian American whose claim to this country is equal to anyone else’s. Racism and hate have no place in a nation built by generations of immigrants to fulfill the promise of opportunity for all.
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. The American people have great respect for the Chinese people. We respect their achievements, their history, their culture. We deeply value the ties of family and friendship that connect us. And we sincerely wish for our governments to work together on issues that matter to their lives and to the lives of Americans, and for that matter the lives of people around the world.
There’s another core source of national strength that we’ll be relying on in this decisive decade: our democracy.
A hundred years ago, if asked what constitutes the wealth of a nation, we might list the expanse of our land, the size of our population, the strength of our military, the abundance of our natural resources. And thankfully, we’re still wealthy in all of those attributes. But more than ever, in this 21st century, the true wealth of a nation is found in our people – our human resources – and our ability to unleash their full potential.
We do that with our democratic system. We debate, we argue, we disagree, we challenge each other, including our elected leaders. We deal with our deficiencies openly; we don’t pretend they don’t exist or sweep them under the rug. And though progress can feel painfully slow, can be difficult and ugly, by and large we consistently work toward a society where people from all backgrounds can flourish, guided by national values that unite, motivate, and uplift us.
We are not perfect. But at our best, we always strive to be – in the words of our Constitution – a more perfect union. Our democracy is designed to make that happen.
That’s what the American people and the American model offer, and it’s one of the most powerful assets in this contest.
Now, Beijing believes that its model is the better one; that a party-led centralized system is more efficient, less messy, ultimately superior to democracy. We do not seek to transform China’s political system. Our task is to prove once again that democracy can meet urgent challenges, create opportunity, advance human dignity; that the future belongs to those who believe in freedom and that all countries will be free to chart their own paths without coercion.
The second piece of our strategy is aligning with our allies and partners to advance a shared vision for the future.
From day one, the Biden administration has worked to re-energize America’s unmatched network of alliances and partnerships and to re-engage in international institutions. We’re encouraging partners to work with each other, and through regional and global organizations. And we’re standing up new coalitions to deliver for our people and meet the tests of the century ahead.
Nowhere is this more true than in the Indo-Pacific region, where our relationships, including our treaty alliances, are among our strongest in the world.
The United States shares the vision that countries and people across the region hold: one of a free and open Indo-Pacific where rules are developed transparently and applied fairly; where countries are free to make their own sovereign decisions; where goods, ideas, and people flow freely across land, sky, cyberspace, the open seas, and governance is responsive to the people.
President Biden reinforced these priorities this week with his trip to the region, where he reaffirmed our vital security alliances with South Korea and Japan, and deepened our economic and technology cooperation with both countries.
He launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a first-of-its-kind initiative for the region. It will, in the President’s words, “help all our countries’ economies grow faster and fairer.” IPEF, as we call it, renews American economic leadership but adapts it for the 21st century by addressing cutting-edge issues like the digital economy, supply chains, clean energy, infrastructure, and corruption. A dozen countries, including India, have already joined. Together, IPEF members make up more than a third of the global economy.
The President also took part in the leaders’ summit of the Quad countries – Australia, Japan, India, the United States. The Quad never met at the leader level before President Biden took office. Since he convened the first leaders’ meeting last year, the Quad has held four summits. It’s become a leading regional team. This week, it launched a new Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, so our partners across the region can better monitor the waters near their shores to address illegal fishing and protect their maritime rights and their sovereignty.
We’re reinvigorating our partnership with ASEAN. Earlier this month, we hosted the U.S.-ASEAN Summit to take on urgent issues like public health and the climate crisis together. This week, seven ASEAN countries became founding members of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. And we’re building bridges among our Indo-Pacific and European partners, including by inviting Asian allies to the NATO summit in Madrid next month.
We’re enhancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific; for example, with the new security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as AUKUS.
And we’re helping countries in the region and around the world defeat COVID-19. To date, the United States has provided nearly $20 billion to the global pandemic response. That includes more than 540 million doses of safe and effective vaccines donated – not sold – with no political strings attached, on our way to 1.2 billion doses worldwide. And we’re coordinating with a group of 19 countries in a global action plan to get shots into arms.
As a result of all of this diplomacy, we are more aligned with partners across the Indo-Pacific, and we’re working in a more coordinated way toward our shared goals.
We’ve also deepened our alignment across the Atlantic. We launched the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council last year, marshaling the combined weight of nearly 50 percent of the world’s GDP. Last week, I joined Secretary Raimondo, Ambassador Tai, and our European Commission counterparts for our second meeting to work together on new technology standards, coordinate on investment screening and export controls, strengthen supply chains, boost green tech, and improve food security and digital infrastructure in developing countries.
Meanwhile, we and our European partners set aside 17 years of litigation about aircraft; now, instead of arguing with each other, we’re working to secure a level playing field for our companies and workers in that sector.
Similarly, we worked with the European Union and others to resolve a dispute on steel and aluminum imports, and now we’re coming together around a shared vision on higher climate standards and protecting our workers and industries from Beijing’s deliberate efforts to distort the market to its advantage.
We’re partnering with the European Union to protect our citizens’ privacy while strengthening a shared digital economy that depends on vast flows of data.
With the G20, we reached a landmark deal on a global minimum tax to halt the race to the bottom, make sure that big corporations pay their fair share, and give countries even more resources to invest in their people. More than 130 countries have signed on so far.
We and our G7 partners are pursuing a coordinated, high-standard, and transparent approach to meet the enormous infrastructure needs in developing countries.
We’ve convened global summits on defeating COVID-19 and renewing global democracy, and rejoined the UN Human Rights Council and the WHO, the World Health Organization.
And at a moment of great testing, we and our allies have re-energized NATO, which is now as strong as ever.
These actions are all aimed at defending and, as necessary, reforming the rules-based order that should benefit all nations. We want to lead a race to the top on tech, on climate, infrastructure, global health, and inclusive economic growth. And we want to strengthen a system in which as many countries as possible can come together to cooperate effectively, resolve differences peacefully, write their own futures as sovereign equals.
Our diplomacy is based on partnership and respect for each other’s interests. We don’t expect every country to have the exact same assessment of China as we do. We know that many countries – including the United States – have vital economic or people-to-people ties with China that they want to preserve. This is not about forcing countries to choose. It’s about giving them a choice, so that, for example, the only option isn’t an opaque investment that leaves countries in debt, stokes corruption, harms the environment, fails to create local jobs or growth, and compromises countries’ exercise of their sovereignty. We’ve heard firsthand about buyer’s remorse that these deals can leave behind.
At every step, we’re consulting with our partners, listening to them, taking their concerns to heart, building solutions that address their unique challenges and priorities.
There is growing convergence about the need to approach relations with Beijing with more realism. Many of our partners already know from painful experience how Beijing can come down hard when they make choices that it dislikes. Like last spring, when Beijing cut off Chinese students and tourists from traveling to Australia and imposed an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley exports, because Australia’s Government called for an independent inquiry into COVID’s origin. Or last November, when Chinese Coast Guard vessels used water cannons to stop a resupply of a Philippine navy ship in the South China Sea. Actions like these remind the world of how Beijing can retaliate against perceived opposition.
There’s another area of alignment we share with our allies and partners: human rights.
The United States stands with countries and people around the world against the genocide and crimes against humanity happening in the Xinjiang region, where more than a million people have been placed in detention camps because of their ethnic and religious identity.
We stand together on Tibet, where the authorities continue to wage a brutal campaign against Tibetans and their culture, language, and religious traditions, and in Hong Kong, where the Chinese Communist Party has imposed harsh anti-democratic measures under the guise of national security.
Now, Beijing insists that these are somehow internal matters that others have no right to raise. That is wrong. Its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, along with many other actions, go against the core tenets of the UN Charter that Beijing constantly cites and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all countries are meant to adhere to.
Beijing’s quashing of freedom in Hong Kong violates its handover commitments, enshrined in a treaty deposited at the United Nations.
We’ll continue to raise these issues and call for change – not to stand against China, but to stand up for peace, security, and human dignity.
That brings us to the third element of our strategy. Thanks to increased investments at home and greater alignment with allies and partners, we are well-positioned to outcompete China in key areas.
For example, Beijing wants to put itself at the center of global innovation and manufacturing, increase other countries’ technological dependence, and then use that dependence to impose its foreign policy preferences. And Beijing is going to great lengths to win this contest – for example, taking advantage of the openness of our economies to spy, to hack, to steal technology and know-how to advance its military innovation and entrench its surveillance state.
So as we make sure the next wave of innovation is unleashed by the United States and our allies and partners, we’ll also protect ourselves against efforts to siphon off our ingenuity or imperil our security.
We’re sharpening our tools to safeguard our technological competitiveness. That includes new and stronger export controls to make sure our critical innovations don’t end up in the wrong hands; greater protections for academic research, to create an open, secure, and supportive environment for science; better cyber defenses; stronger security for sensitive data; and sharper investment screening measures to defend companies and countries against Beijing’s efforts to gain access to sensitive technologies, data, or critical infrastructure; compromise our supply chains; or dominate key strategic sectors.
We believe – and we expect the business community to understand – that the price of admission to China’s market must not be the sacrifice of our core values or long-term competitive and technological advantages. We’re counting on businesses to pursue growth responsibly, assess risk soberly, and work with us not only to protect but to strengthen our national security.
For too long, Chinese companies have enjoyed far greater access to our markets than our companies have in China. For example, Americans who want to read the China Daily or communicate via WeChat are free to do so, but The New York Times and Twitter are prohibited for the Chinese people, except those working for the government who use these platforms to spread propaganda and disinformation. American companies operating in China have been subject to systematic forced technology transfer, while Chinese companies in America have been protected by our rule of law. Chinese filmmakers can freely market their movies to American theater owners without any censorship by the U.S. Government, but Beijing strictly limits the number of foreign movies allowed in the Chinese market, and those that are allowed are subjected to heavy-handed political censorship. China’s businesses in the United States don’t fear using our impartial legal system to defend their rights – in fact, they’re frequently in court asserting claims against the United States Government. The same isn’t true for foreign firms in China.
This lack of reciprocity is unacceptable and it’s unsustainable.
Or consider what happened in the steel market. Beijing directed massive over-investment by Chinese companies, which then flooded the global market with cheap steel. Unlike U.S. companies and other market-oriented firms, Chinese companies don’t need to make a profit – they just get another injection of state-owned bank credit when funds are running low. Plus, they do little to control pollution or protect the rights of their workers, which also keeps costs down. As a consequence, China now accounts for more than half of global steel production, driving U.S. companies – as well as factories in India, Mexico, Indonesia, Europe, and elsewhere – out of the market.
We’ve seen this same model when it comes to solar panels, electric car batteries – key sectors of the 21st century economy that we cannot allow to become completely dependent on China.
Economic manipulations like these have cost American workers millions of jobs. And they’ve harmed the workers and firms of countries around the world. We will push back on market-distorting policies and practices, like subsidies and market access barriers, which China’s government has used for years to gain competitive advantage. We’ll boost supply chain security and resilience by reshoring production or sourcing materials from other countries in sensitive sectors like pharmaceuticals and critical minerals, so that we’re not dependent on any one supplier. We’ll stand together with others against economic coercion and intimidation. And we will work to ensure that U.S. companies don’t engage in commerce that facilitates or benefits from human rights abuses, including forced labor.
In short, we’ll fight for American workers and industry with every tool we have – just as we know that our partners will fight for their workers.
The United States does not want to sever China’s economy from ours or from the global economy – though Beijing, despite its rhetoric, is pursuing asymmetric decoupling, seeking to make China less dependent on the world and the world more dependent on China. For our part, we want trade and investment as long as they’re fair and don’t jeopardize our national security. China has formidable economic resources, including a highly capable workforce. We’re confident that our workers, our companies will compete successfully – and we welcome that competition – on a level playing field.
So as we push back responsibly on unfair technology and economic practices, we’ll work to maintain economic and people-to-people ties connecting the United States and China, consistent with our interests and our values. Beijing may not be willing to change its behavior. But if it takes concrete action to address the concerns that we and many other countries have voiced, we will respond positively.
Competition need not lead to conflict. We do not seek it. We will work to avoid it. But we will defend our interests against any threat.
To that end, President Biden has instructed the Department of Defense to hold China as its pacing challenge, to ensure that our military stays ahead. We’ll seek to preserve peace through a new approach that we call “integrated deterrence” – bringing in allies and partners; working across the conventional, the nuclear, space, and informational domains; drawing on our reinforcing strengths in economics, in technology, and in diplomacy.
The administration is shifting our military investments away from platforms that were designed for the conflicts of the 20th century toward asymmetric systems that are longer-range, harder to find, easier to move. We’re developing new concepts to guide how we conduct military operations. And we’re diversifying our force posture and global footprint, fortifying our networks, critical civilian infrastructure, and space-based capabilities. We’ll help our allies and partners in the region with their own asymmetric capabilities, too.
We’ll continue to oppose Beijing’s aggressive and unlawful activities in the South and East China Seas. Nearly six years ago, an international tribunal found that Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea have no basis in international law. We’ll support the region’s coastal states in upholding their maritime rights. We’ll work with allies and partners to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight, which has enabled the region’s prosperity for decades. And we’ll continue to fly and sail wherever international law allows.
On Taiwan, our approach has been consistent across decades and administrations. As the President has said, our policy has not changed. The United States remains committed to our “one China” policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, the Six Assurances. We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.
We continue to have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We’ll continue to uphold our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability – and, as indicated in the TRA, to “maintain our capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system, of Taiwan.” We enjoy a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan, a vibrant democracy and leading economy in the region. We’ll continue to expand our cooperation with Taiwan on our many shared interests and values, support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the international community, deepen our economic ties, consistent with our “one China” policy.
While our policy has not changed, what has changed is Beijing’s growing coercion – like trying to cut off Taiwan’s relations with countries around the world and blocking it from participating in international organizations. And Beijing has engaged in increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity, like flying PLA aircraft near Taiwan on an almost daily basis. These words and actions are deeply destabilizing; they risk miscalculation and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait. As we saw from the President’s discussions with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining peace and stability across the strait is not just a U.S. interest; it is a matter of international concern, critical to regional and global security and prosperity.
As President Biden likes to say, the only conflict worse than an intended one is an unintended one. We’ll manage this relationship responsibly to prevent that from happening. We’ve prioritized crisis communications and risk reduction measures with Beijing. And on this issue – and every other – we remain committed to intense diplomacy alongside intense competition.
Even as we invest, align, and compete, we’ll work together with Beijing where our interests come together. We can’t let the disagreements that divide us stop us from moving forward on the priorities that demand that we work together, for the good of our people and for the good of the world.
That starts with climate. China and the United States had years of stalemate on climate, which gridlocked the world – but also periods of progress, which galvanized the world. The climate diplomacy channel launched in 2013 between China and the United States unleashed global momentum that produced the Paris Agreement. Last year at COP26, the world’s hopes were buoyed when the United States and China issued our Glasgow Joint Declaration to work together to address emissions from methane to coal.
Climate is not about ideology. It’s about math. There’s simply no way to solve climate change without China’s leadership, the country that produces 28 percent of global emissions. The International Energy Agency has made clear that if China sticks with its current plan and does not peak its emissions until 2030, then the rest of the world must go to zero by 2035. And that’s simply not possible.
Today about 20 nations are responsible for 80 percent of emissions. China is number one. The United States is number two. Unless we all do much more, much faster, the financial and human cost will be catastrophic. Plus, competing on clean energy and climate policy can produce results that benefit everyone.
The progress that the United States and China make together – including through the working group established by the Glasgow Declaration – is vital to our success in avoiding the worst consequences of this crisis. I urge China to join us in accelerating the pace of these shared efforts.
Likewise, on the COVID-19 pandemic, our fates are linked. And our hearts go out to the Chinese people as they deal with this latest wave. We’ve been through our own deeply painful ordeal with COVID. That’s why we’re so convinced that all countries need to work together to vaccinate the world – not in exchange for favors or political concessions, but for the simple reason that no country will be safe until all are safe. And all nations must transparently share data and samples – and provide access to experts – for new variants and emerging and re-emerging pathogens, to prevent the next pandemic even as we fight the current one.
On nonproliferation and arms control, it’s in all of our interests to uphold the rules, the norms, the treaties that have reduced the spread of weapons of mass destruction. China and the United States must keep working together, and with other countries, to address Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs. And we remain ready to discuss directly with Beijing our respective responsibilities as nuclear powers.
To counter illegal and illicit narcotics, especially synthetic opioids like fentanyl that killed more than 100,000 Americans last year, we want to work with China to stop international drug trafficking organizations from getting precursor chemicals, many of which originate in China.
As a global food crisis threatens people worldwide, we look to China – a country that’s achieved great things in agriculture – to help with a global response. Last week at the United Nations, the United States convened a meeting of foreign ministers to strengthen global food security. We extended an invitation to China to join. We’ll continue to do so.
And as the world’s economy recovers from the devastation of the pandemic, global macroeconomic coordination between the United States and China is key – through the G20, the IMF, other venues, and of course, bilaterally. That comes with the territory of being the world’s two largest economies.
In short, we’ll engage constructively with China wherever we can, not as a favor to us or anyone else, and never in exchange for walking away from our principles, but because working together to solve great challenges is what the world expects from great powers, and because it’s directly in our interest. No country should withhold progress on existential transnational issues because of bilateral differences.
The scale and the scope of the challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China will test American diplomacy like nothing we’ve seen before. I’m determined to give the State Department and our diplomats the tools that they need to meet this challenge head on as part of my modernization agenda. This includes building a China House – a department-wide integrated team that will coordinate and implement our policy across issues and regions, working with Congress as needed. And here, I must mention an outstanding team at our embassy in Beijing and our consulates across China, led by Ambassador Nick Burns. They do exceptional work every day, and many have been doing their jobs in recent weeks through these intense COVID lockdowns. Despite extreme conditions, they’ve persisted. We’re grateful for this terrific team.
I’ve never been more convinced about the power and the purpose of American diplomacy or sure about our capacity to meet the challenges of this decisive decade. To the American people: let’s recommit to investing in our core strengths, in our people, in our democracy, in our innovative spirit. As President Biden often says, it’s never a good bet to bet against America. But let’s bet on ourselves and win the competition for the future.
To countries around the world committed to building an open, secure, and prosperous future, let’s work in common cause to uphold the principles that make our shared progress possible and stand up for the right of every nation to write its own future. And to the people of China: we’ll compete with confidence; we’ll cooperate wherever we can; we’ll contest where we must. We do not see conflict.
There’s no reason why our great nations cannot coexist peacefully, and share in and contribute to human progress together. That’s what everything I’ve said today boils down to: advancing human progress, leaving to our children a world that’s more peaceful, more prosperous, and more free.
Thank you very much for listening. (Applause.)
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