President Biden told world leaders at the United Nations Tuesday that he is not seeking conflict with China but that the U.S. will “push back on aggression and intimidation” as his administration seeks to walk a careful line in its relationship with Beijing.
“When it comes to China, I want to be clear and consistent: We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not tip into conflict,” Biden said in remarks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“I have said we are for de-risking, not decoupling with China. We will push back on aggression and intimidation and defend the rules of the road,” Biden added, saying the U.S. would enforce freedom of navigation and ensure there is an even economic playing field.
“We also stand ready to work with China on issues where progress hinges on our common efforts. Nowhere is that more critical than … the accelerating climate crisis,” Biden added.
Biden’s comments come as his administration has increased outreach to China, even as Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have gone nearly a year without having a face-to-face meeting. He and his administration have also sought to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met over the weekend with China’s foreign minister, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in New York this week with China’s vice president. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have both made recent trips to China for meetings with government and business officials.
But at the same time, the Biden administration has prioritized strengthening relationships and alliances in the Indo-Pacific in an effort to counter Chinese influence in the region and ensure that other countries are not reliant on Beijing for financial support. The latter point was a major focus for Biden last week when he traveled to India for the Group of 20 Summit.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing spiked this year after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that had floated over the United States for several days. Biden later described Xi as a dictator, though he downplayed that the comment had any impact on relations with China.