China criticizes U.S. as tensions rise in South Pacific

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reacts during the daily presser at the Ministry of Foreign Affiairs in Beijing on Friday.

BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday criticized a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken focused on relations between the world’s top two economic powers, saying the U.S. was seeking to smear Beijing’s reputation.

In his Thursday address, Blinken said the administration of President Joe Biden wants to lead the international bloc opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into a broader coalition to counter what it sees as a more serious, long-term threat to global order from China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded that the U.S. was “essentially spreading disinformation” and “smearing China’s domestic and foreign policy.”

The aim of Blinken’s speech was to “contain and suppress China’s development and uphold U.S. hegemony,” Wang said. “We strongly deplore and reject this.”

“As to the rules-based international order that the U.S. advocates, all people with insight can see through that they are nothing but the rules formulated by the U.S. and a few other countries with the aim at upholding the U.S.-dominant international order,” Wang added.

“The U.S. always places its domestic law above international law and follows international rules selectively,” Wang said.

In his speech outlining the administration’s China policy, Blinken laid out a three-pillar approach to competing with Beijing in a race to define the 21st century’s economic and military balance.

Blinken said the administration believes China poses a major threat to the post-World War II order, even while the U.S. sees Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as the most acute and immediate threat to international stability.

“Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years,” Blinken said.

“China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order — and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” he said. “Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years.”

China has refused to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or even describe it in such terms, in deference to Moscow.

It has upped its threats against the self-governing island republic of Taiwan and expanded its military presence in the South China Sea, while sending Foreign Minister Wang Yi on a mission to the South Pacific with a sweeping security proposal that, even if only partially realized, could give China a presence much nearer to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, and on the doorstep of the strategic American territory of Guam.

Blinken’s speech appeared to show that China and the U.S. were “facing a Cold War that has no big differences with the previous Cold War,” said Xiong Zhiyong, professor of international relations at Beijing’s China Foreign Affairs University.

U.S. domestic political concerns seem to be driving Biden to take a harder line on China, Xiong said. With the governing Democratic Party facing tough challenges in this year’s congressional and senatorial elections, China’s influence on the U.S. economy and its national security is becoming a major issue for candidates.

“I think what the Biden administration is doing is based on its domestic needs, especially the political needs,” Xiong told The Associated Press.

At the same time, Blinken seemed to be striving to “stabilize the international order and China-U.S. relations,” Xiong said.

“We should strive for this goal and the goal is not unattainable,” he said.