Sat. Jul 13th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Steve Inskeep of NPR

QUESTION:  We are inside the U.S. embassy compound.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken is with us after meeting China’s President Xi Jinping and other top Chinese officials.  They’ve been trying to keep relations between two great powers from spiraling downward. 

Mr. Secretary, welcome back to the program.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Steve, great to be with you.

QUESTION:  Thanks for joining us here on the road.  I have followed China’s public statements during this day of meetings that you’ve had, and the public statements are pretty pointed.  China alleged the U.S. has suppressed their economic development and said the U.S. attacked China’s core interests, which is pretty harsh as diplomatic language goes.  Was President Xi any different in private?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, I don’t want to characterize him or what he said.  What I can tell you is this:  We had very direct, very candid, but also in many ways constructive conversations about two things.  If you go back to the meeting between President Biden and President Xi at the end of last year in San Francisco, in Woodside, they agreed that it was very important, first of all, that we have these regular lines of communication, that we had an obligation to manage this relationship responsibly, including dealing very directly with our differences, and also seeing if we could build areas of cooperation where it was in our mutual interest.  And that’s exactly what we’ve done and what I was focused on here in Beijing. 

QUESTION:  One thing you were focused on was trying to get China to stop giving aid to Russia’s military as it invades Ukraine.  And we can talk about China’s attitude here because they’ve made a public statement.  Their foreign ministry spokesman was asked today about ending aid to Russia, and he said, look, we trade with Russia, and you guys aid Ukraine; you’re hypocrites.  That sounds like a no, we’re not stopping – seemed to be what they were saying. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, here’s the problem.  What China is doing now is it’s not providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine as —  

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — for example, North Korea and Iran are, but it is the number one supplier of the critical components for Russia to rebuild its defense industrial base: machine tools, microelectronics, optics, and other things that are going right into a massive production of munitions, of weaponry, of tanks, of armored vehicles – which in turn are going into Ukraine.  This is not only a problem for us, it’s not only a problem for Ukraine; it’s a problem for virtually everyone in Europe, because they see this as helping to perpetuate the Russian aggression in Ukraine.  They also see it as creating a growing threat to Europe’s security. 

So one of the things that I shared with our Chinese colleagues is that at the very same time that they’re trying to develop better relations with Europe, they can’t be doing that while at the same time helping to fuel what is the biggest threat to Europe’s security since the end of the Cold War.  Now, we’ve already taken steps ourselves.  We’re prepared to do more if China is not prepared to act to curb this activity.

QUESTION:  So you’re trying to tell them it’s in their interest to stop aiding Russia, but you also told reporters just a short time ago, if China does not address this problem, we will.  What power do you have?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, as I’ve said, you’ve already seen us take action against more than a hundred Chinese entities with sanctions, applying export controls.  There are other measures that we’re fully prepared to take.  And as I said before, if China won’t act, we will. 

QUESTION:  In October, the United States issued new regulations that denied Chinese firms access to the most advanced semiconductors, the most advanced chips.  How much has that one step altered the competition between these two countries?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  One of the things that we’re very focused on is making sure that when it comes to the highest end technology, we’re not in the business of providing or selling things that could be turned against us to undermine our own security.  And so what we’ve done, as we’ve said, is to work to build a very high fence around a very small yard.  Because this is not about decoupling our economies, it’s not about cutting off trade and investment with China – things that are beneficial to us and beneficial to them as long as it’s done fairly. 

And as I mentioned a little while ago, we remain the number-one market for Chinese products around the world, and there remains significant American investment in China.  But when it comes to sensitive technology, we’re going to be very, very sure that the most sensitive technology does not wind up where it could turn around and hurt us. 

QUESTION:  Although some of the most sensitive technology is, of course, also central to economic growth, high-tech growth.  The New York Times recently quoted multiple American experts who say this step cuts off areas that will power future economic growth and development.  I know your purpose is to prevent military development, but are you inevitably also choking off China?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, the vast, vast majority of chips – legacy chips and others – are still available.  I saw that Huawei just put out a new laptop that it boasted was AI capable, that uses an Intel chip. 

QUESTION:  And this is a company that’s been targeted by the United States.  Sure.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And so, again, I think it demonstrates that what we’re focused on is only the most sensitive technology that could pose a threat to our security.  We’re not focused on cutting off trade, or for that matter containing or holding back China.  It’s actually in our interest for China to have a growing and strong economy, but we also want to make sure that on the economic side of the ledger, there’s a level playing field for our companies and our workers.

QUESTION:  Elbridge Colby, who’s a former Republican defense official – you’re nodding, you know him – was on the program this week and said he is concerned that these U.S. efforts could provoke a war that the United States is not ready for.  What is the risk here?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’re all about preventing wars, preventing conflict.  And again, one of the things that was so important in trying to re-establish regular contact with China, regular engagement, was the restoration of our military-to-military communications – something that came out of the President’s meeting with President Xi last year.  And we’ve seen that —

QUESTION:  That prevents an accidental war —


QUESTION:  — but what if China decides they must act because they’re running out of time?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I’m not going to get into their own decision space, but we’ve been very clear that when it comes to South China Sea, when it comes to the Taiwan Strait, our purpose, our focus is on maintaining peace and stability, maintaining the status quo, and not seeing any actions taken that could disrupt it. 

QUESTION:  So while we’re here in Beijing, we’ve been talking with a lot of people, and we met a university professor who said America’s reputation has declined here in part because of U.S. support for Israel and its war against Hamas.  Then there was a headline in a Chinese paper today:  “Chinese satellites detail… destruction to Gaza from the war.”  And it’s been widely reported that China is playing up this conflict in the Global South in many nations to undermine the United States.  How can you respond to that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, I can’t focus on what they may be saying or doing inside of China, but what I can focus on is two things: one, of course, is what we’re doing in the Middle East both to try to bring this conflict to an end as quickly as possible in a way that allows Israel to ensure that October 7th never happens again, but also to do everything we can to protect the men, women, and children who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’s making. 

And at the same time when it comes to China, one of the things we actually discussed was the Middle East.  And I’ve had, I think, six conversations with my Chinese counterparts since October 7th.  I actually believe that China could play a constructive role in trying to make sure that conflict doesn’t spread, that we don’t see escalation because it has relationships, it has influence with critical countries in the region, including, for example, Iran.  So what I’m focused on is trying to encourage China to use that influence in a productive way. 

QUESTION:  Is it your impression that China is ready to act in the way that you want them to on that issue?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, we’ve seen some evidence that they have engaged because it’s also in their interest to make sure that conflict doesn’t spread.  For example, China is deeply reliant on energy coming from the Middle East.  It has no interest in a Middle East that’s in flames, full of conflict, and just out of its own self-interest, I think, is looking to take appropriate action.

QUESTION:  Secretary Antony Blinken, thanks very much for taking the time today.  I really appreciate it. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Steve, thank you.

QUESTION:  Enjoy the rest of your travels.


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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS