Blinken refuses to call Biden's superpower competition with China a 'new Cold War'

  • Blinken won’t call the US-China competition a new Cold War.
  • “I resist putting labels on most relationships … because it’s complex,” Blinken said.
  • Biden has been portraying the US-China standoff as a battle between democracy and autocracy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday refused to call the escalating competition between the US and China a “new Cold War,” even though it bears many of the hallmarks of the fight for supremacy between the US and Soviet Union in the 20th century.

“I resist putting labels on most relationships, including this one, because it’s complex,” Blinken said during an interview with the Financial Times. “And as I said, if you look at it, we’ve seen unfortunately in recent years the government in Beijing acting more repressively at home and aggressively abroad. And when I look at the relationship, I see adversarial aspects. I see competitive aspects. I see cooperative aspects – all three.”

Blinken said that the Biden administration’s position is the US must be able to “engage China from a position of strength.” This means a few things, America’s top diplomat went on to say.

“It means actually working with allies and partners, not disparaging them. That is a position of strength. It means leaning in and engaging in the vast array of multilateral and international organizations because that’s where so many of the rules are made. That’s where the norms are shaped. And if we’re not leaning in, we know that Beijing is likely to be trying to do so in our place. And it means critically – and maybe most critically – actually investing in ourselves, investing in our own people, in our workers, in our technology, in our infrastructure. If we do that, then I think we’re going to be fine,” Blinken added. 

For the past several years, US-China relations have deteriorated as China’s global influence has rapidly expanded. Former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, as well as the fact he blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on Beijing, further increased tensions. Under Trump, experts warned that the US and China were on the brink of a new Cold War.

The US stance toward China has not shifted drastically under the new administration in 2021.

President Joe Biden has made competing with China a top priority, portraying the challenges posed by Beijing as an existential threat to the US and part of a broader battle between democracy and autocracy. He has repeatedly injected warnings about China into major speeches, including his first address to Congress last week. 

“We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century. We’re at a great inflection point in history,” Biden said. 

With Biden effectively promoting a standoff between two superpowers, there are increasing concerns among some in Washington that he is fueling another conflict akin to the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union. 

But Blinken pushed back on this characterization. 

“This is not about initiating a Cold War. This is all about doing our part to make sure that democracy is strong, resilient, and meeting the needs of its people,” Blinken said. “You know what we’ve seen over the last 15 years is unfortunately something of a democratic recession around the world: countries falling back on the basic metrics of democracy. The United States has had its own challenges visible for the world to see when it comes to democracy.”

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