Blinken, Biden to outline global strategy with China as key focus

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The Biden administration on Wednesday plans to lay out elements of a national security strategy that puts China at the heart of the global challenges facing the United States and sees little distinction between foreign and domestic policy.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will outline aspects of the strategy in a speech at the State Department. According to Blinken, President Joe Biden will later in the day share “interim strategic guidance” on his administration’s vision of the world.

That vision, according to Blinken, includes finding ways to tackle challenges from battling technological attacks to climate change. And on virtually every front, the United States is likely to have to deal with Beijing.

“China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system — all the rules, values, and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to,” Blinken is set to say, according to excerpts of his speech shared in advance with reporters.

Most of Blinken’s speech, at least according to the excerpts, consists of pledges made repeatedly during the 2020 presidential campaign and since Biden won November’s election.

That includes promising to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic; to make climate change a major focus; to elevate diplomacy while maintaining military supremacy; to exhibit global leadership while also cooperating with foreign allies; to invest in technology; to improve the U.S. immigration system; to battle corruption; and to stand up for human rights.

Blinken will acknowledge that the world today is different from 2017, when Donald Trump took over as president, or even from 2009, when many current Biden administration officials worked for then-President Barack Obama.

“We’re not simply picking up where we left off. We’re looking at the world with fresh eyes,” Blinken is expected to say.

That includes more consideration of the ways in which foreign policy, domestic policy and trade issues are intertwined. The Biden administration will weigh how its moves abroad affect American workers, Blinken will promise.

“Some of us previously argued for free trade agreements because we believed that Americans would broadly share in the economic gains and that those deals would shape the global economy in ways that we wanted,” Blinken is to say. “But we didn’t do enough to enforce agreements that were already on the books or help more workers and small businesses fully benefit from them. And we didn’t deal with the fact that government programs meant to ease trade related pain were not nearly good enough.”

“Our approach now will be different,” he will add. “We will fight for every American job and for the rights, protections, and interests of all American workers.”

Blinken also plans to hit on another favorite Biden theme: the need to strengthen democracy, because the very concept is “under threat.”

“The more we and all democracies can show the world that we can deliver — not only for our people, but also for each other — the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell — that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes,” he is to say.

The excerpts don’t specifically mention the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but Blinken nonetheless implies that the work on democracy begins at home, and says the U.S. must lead by example.

He dismisses, however, some past U.S. attempts to bring about democracy abroad.

“We will not promote democracy through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force,” he is to say. “We have tried these tactics in the past. However well intentioned, they haven’t worked. They’ve given ‘democracy promotion’ a bad name, and they’ve lost the confidence of the American people.”

America must invest in its institutions, Blinken will argue, in part because it faces its “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century: our relationship with China.”

“Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be,” the secretary of State is due to say. “And we will engage China from a position of strength.”

Blinken, whose foreign policy career dates back decades, will argue that the priorities he — and presumably Biden’s “interim strategic guidance” — describes are “all simultaneously domestic and foreign issues.”

“More than any other time in my career — maybe in my lifetime — distinctions between ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ policy have fallen away,” Blinken is to say. “Our domestic renewal and our strength in the world are completely entwined. And how we work will reflect that reality.”

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