Blinken, in an interview to CNN, commented on Trump’s tough approach on China, saying the way Trump went about it, in his judgment, was wrong across the board, but the basic principle was the right one.
“I think in fairness to President Trump he was right to take a tougher approach to China. That was the right thing to do.
“But what does this require of us? We have to engage China from a position of strength. And whether it’s the adversarial aspects of the relationship, the competitive ones, or the cooperative ones which are there in our mutual interest, we have to deal with it from a position of strength,” he said on Sunday.
Blinken explained that this means having strong alliances.
“That’s a source of advantage for us – not denigrating our alliances. It means, as we were talking about earlier, showing up again in the world, engaging. Because if we don’t, when we pull back, China fills in,” he said.
During his tenure, Trump, a Republican, pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China’s military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan, the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, branding coronavirus as “China virus” after it emerged from Wuhan in December 2019 and the Tibet issue.
“It means standing up for our values, not abdicating them, when we see the abuse of the rights of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang or democracy in Hong Kong. It means making sure that we’re postured militarily to deter aggression, and it means investing in our own people so that they can compete effectively,” Blinken said.
“If we do all of these things, and all of these things are within our control, we can engage China from a position of strength,” he asserted.
Responding to a question, Blinken said that President Joe Biden has been very clear that he wants to put, will put and is putting human rights and democracy back at the center of America’s foreign policy.
“Whether it’s China or any other country where we have deep and serious concerns, this will be something that is front and center, and I think you’ve already seen that play out.
“We have these deep concerns that we will act on but also act on in concert with other countries, with allies and partners who share the concerns that we have, particularly, again, about the abuse of human rights of the Uyghurs, but also the abuse of democracy in Hong Kong. China made commitments during the handover from the United Kingdom to China about Hong Kong, about the rights of its people. Those commitments have not been upheld,” Blinken added.
Last week, in its first contact with the Biden administration, China asked the US to rectify the “mistakes” of former President Trump’s aggressive policies towards Beijing and flagged Taiwan as the most important and sensitive core issue for it.
On Friday, Blinken spoke to his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
China’s official media reported that Yang told Blinken that the US should “rectify its mistakes” made over a period of time and work with Beijing to uphold the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, focus on cooperation and manage differences, so as to push forward the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations.
Biden, a Democrat, has described China as the most serious competitor to the US and vowed to confront Beijing on various fronts, including human rights, intellectual property and economic policy.