US vows to take China by its horns

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Washington:  Asserting that China has been picking up fights virtually on every front, a top American diplomat said Washington’s strategy to counter it is to push back against Beijing in every domain, including its  ‘outsized’ sovereignty claims in India’s Galwan Valley.

Instead of finding some reasonable balance and shared interests, the US has found that China has exploited every opportunity that they can — from technology theft to assertion of national sovereignty over the territory and territorial waters of other countries, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said during third India US Leadership Summit on Monday.

The virtual summit was organised by US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), a non-profit organisation.

“The United States is in a concerted effort to push back on all fronts,” he said.

“Our strategy is to push back against China in virtually every domain. We’re doing it in the security area. We’re doing it in terms of outsized demands to claim sovereign territory, whether it’s in the Galwan Valley of India on the India-Chinese border, or in the South Pacific,” Biegun said.

The Trump Administration is also doing it on the economic front, he said.

“The president (Donald Trump) has led the charge against the predatory practices from the Chinese economy and the Phase One trade deal is just a first step in that (direction), to be followed by many others in the years ahead to equalize and balance the US-China economic relationship,” he said during a conversation with Richard Verma, former US Ambassador to India.

Underpinning all of that is a demand for basic reciprocity, he said.

“For a very long time, there had been a desire to extend to China special privileges and benefits, and even the benefit of the doubt among them, to bring China into a more modern and prosperous future,” he noted.

“Twenty years ago when that initiative was launched in earnest with China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the bet by most policymakers was that eventually, the weight of the institutions that China was joining would slowly redirect the Chinese political system and Chinese interests to a point where China would become much more invested in a rules-based order…,” Biegun said.

He added that these rule based-orders would at least moderate the tendencies of the Chinese government to make it a better partner for many around the world, even if they do not make China a true democracy.

“Unfortunately, this (US) administration has reached the conclusion that the experiment has failed across all the domains that I mentioned and we’re pushing back against China,” Biegun said.

“But perhaps the biggest failed assumption was that the institutions that China joined would ultimately change China. What the US has found that China grew so quickly at the beginning of this century that its outsized influence in those institutions is seeking instead to transform those institutions to China’s interests,” said Biegun.

“That’s unacceptable from our point of view and we are pushing back in the institutions like the World Health Organization or like the World Intellectual Property Organization.

“We are pushing back hard to ensure that organisations either adhere to their core principles or we make clear we are not going to be a party to those efforts. There is a lot of concern about China, but there is an all-of-government effort here to turn it back,” the top diplomat said.

According to Biegun, there is real concern inside Beijing as to what they are confronting.

“Internally, China is simultaneously trying to erase Tibetan cultural identity; they are repressing hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million, Uyghur Muslims and trying to separate these people from their faith and their historical tradition,” he said.

The Chinese government has breached the UK-China agreement on the transition of Hong Kong and asserted direct state control from Beijing that has completely abolished the “one China, two systems” commitment that Beijing made to the UK and to the Hong Kong people to uphold through 2049, he said.

But beyond the internal challenges, China is also facing deep strategic and economic tensions with the US, as the Trump administration seeks to push back against these various areas of concern, Biegun said.

Pointing out Beijing’s attitude of multilateral confrontation with various countries across the globe at the same time, Biegun said it is in “near hostilities with” India, in a “state of hostility” with Taiwan, “in competition and less than cooperative relationship with Japan” with a “deep, steep deterioration of their relationship with Australia and to some extent with New Zealand”.

“They have been in a contentious battle of words and more with many of US partners in Europe over COVID-19 disinformation and several other Chinese behaviours are deeply disturbing to our European partners.

“From China’s perspective, whatever they’re doing can’t possibly be seen as working as they’re picking a fight right now on virtually every front and on every area of interest that the People’s Republic of China has,” Biegun added.


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