President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Jan. 19 that the Trump administration took the correct stance toward the Chinese regime, although he disagrees with the approach.
“President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China. I disagree very much with the way he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one,” Blinken said at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the day before Biden was set to take office. “And I think that that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy.”
Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand who’s a close confidant of Biden, pledged at the hearing to work with U.S. allies to confront the regime.
“If we’re pulling back, that gives them a free field,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Tackling the various threats posed by the Chinese regime has bipartisan support. The Trump administration broke with previous administrations to take a firmer approach confronting the CCP on a range of fronts, including security risks posed by Chinese technology, its human rights abuses, and theft of U.S. technology. There’s also been some criticism of the administration for being too unilateral in its foreign policy actions, which has occasionally been a hard sell to allies.
Blinken said there is “no doubt” that the regime “poses the most significant challenge of any nation-state to the United States.” He also acknowledged that the previous consensus that had informed the U.S. policy of engagement toward China—that “economic liberalization would lead to political liberalization” in the country—was wrong.
The United States, he said, needs to deal with the regime from a “position of strength” through working with allies, and engaging and leading international institutions, rather than let the regime exert more influence on them.
“Position of strength when we stand up for our values, when human rights are being abused in Xinjiang, or when democracy is being trampled in Hong Kong,” Blinken added.
He also said he agreed with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Jan. 19 declaration that the CCP is committing “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Pompeo, in a tweet, defended the Trump administration’s diplomatic approach.
“The U.S. is stronger when we acknowledge the failings of international institutions like [the] UN and try to fix them. Multilateralism for multilateralism’s sake doesn’t help anyone but bureaucrats, globalists, and lawyers.”
In another area of agreement with the outgoing administration, Blinken said he agreed that the CCP misled the world about the CCP virus outbreak in the early stages.
“They did not provide transparency. They did not share information. They did not give access when it mattered most in the early days of this virus,” he said. “Had they done [so], it’s possible that the course of this virus would have been different. We could have dealt with it sooner and more effectively.”
The Trump administration has consistently criticized the regime for its lack of transparency over the outbreak, most recently last week as a World Health Organization team arrived in China to investigate the origins of the pandemic, a year after its initial spread.
Pompeo urged the team to look into the possibility the outbreak was the result of a laboratory accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), saying the United States “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019,” and that secret military activity was conducted at the lab.