US unveils security plan that mainly targets China

The Biden administration also declared in the 48-page document that the post-Cold War era is "definitely over".


The strategy also left the door open to cooperating with China, calling it central to the global economy. PHOTO: REUTERS

October 14, 2022

WASHINGTON – Plan: Ministry urges US to implement commitment

The United States singled out China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” to be outcompeted in its National Security Strategy that was released on Wednesday, while admitting the necessity to cooperate on shared challenges.

The Biden administration declared in the 48-page document that the post-Cold War era is “definitely over”, and the US will avoid viewing the world “solely through the prism of strategic competition”.

The strategy, released 21 months into Joe Biden’s presidency and less than a month before the midterm elections, is laden with talk of a competition that it says “is underway between the major powers to shape what comes next”, and describes a coming struggle as one of “autocracies versus democracies”.

In dealing with the effects of transnational shared challenges, Washington will seek to make progress “by making investments at home or by deepening cooperation” with other like-minded countries, according to the document.

As for China, identified as the “only competitor” with both the intent and increasingly the power to “reshape the international order”, the document presents a threefold strategy: invest in strength at home, align efforts with allies and partners, and compete.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said in Beijing on Thursday that China is opposed to clinging to the outdated Cold War and zero-sum-game mentalities, neither does it approve of hyping up “geopolitical conflict” and “great power competition”, calling for the US to work with China to restore healthy and steady development of bilateral ties.

As the largest developing and developed countries, China and the US have a responsibility to maintain world peace and promote economic development, Mao said at a daily news conference.

Both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation with each other, Mao said, adding that the US should uphold the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, and take effective measures to implement the “five-noes” commitment President Joe Biden has made.

Approach outlined

Graham Webster, a research scholar at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, noted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has outlined the threefold approach to China.

“This pointedly did not include ‘contain’ or ‘constrain’,” Webster wrote on social media on Wednesday. “Yet US policy that may claim to be about ‘competing’ is already designed to constrain.”

For the moment, “constraining” is an approach the US took to deal with Russia, according to the National Security Strategy, which has a section titled “Outcompeting China and Constraining Russia” in the part on global priorities.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has recently criticized Washington’s approach to defining the bilateral relationship by strategic competition.

“This is bringing tremendous uncertainty to the future of our peoples and to countries across the world,” Wang said in a speech in New York on Sept 22.

The document toes the line that Biden has often stressed, “We do not seek conflict or a new Cold War.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, also said that Washington is “not seeking competition to tip over into confrontation or a new Cold War”.

Wang already questioned such assertions. “How can a new Cold War be prevented, when the United States, identifying China as the primary rival and the most serious long-term challenge, has engaged in all-around containment?” he said.

US media outlets have noted how the new strategy overwhelmingly targets China and how it echoes the Trump administration, which asserted the return of “great power competition”.

“But what leaps from the pages of Mr. Biden’s strategy, which was drafted by the National Security Council with input from around the administration, is a relentless focus on China,” The New York Times reported.

It reported that much of the military strategy described in the document is meant to counter China in space, cyberspace and at sea. It describes a more aggressive US effort to enhance cybersecurity and calls for work with allies and the private sector to “withstand attempts to degrade our shared technology advances” by limiting Chinese and other investment in the US and controlling exports of key technologies to China.

Like the May 27 speech by Blinken on the US administration’s policy toward China, the National Security Strategy said the US will manage its competition with China “responsibly” and “will always be willing to work with the PRC where our interests align”.

China has already made it clear that, on a basis of equality and respect, it is willing to have more and better cooperation with the US.

But Beijing has said that for cooperation to be win-win, there need to be necessary conditions and atmosphere.

“The United States should not undermine China’s core interests, on the one hand, and on the other expect China to cooperate unconditionally,” Wang Yi said in the New York speech.

Sarang Shidore, director of studies and a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank, said that while the National Security Strategy calls for engaging “constructively” with China on the climate, which is a good sentiment, the strategy provides no incentives or realistic pathway for China to return to the table.

“The administration faces a contradiction between its actions on China-containment and the imperative of climate action,” he said.

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