China, An Assertive Competitor Advancing Illiberal Vision in Competition with the West

In News

For China, the Biden administration seeks “competition, not conflict.” According to Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, the United States is in the “early years of a decisive decade” in which “the terms of the competition with the People’s Republic of China will be set.”

In Summary

  • According to the Biden National Security Strategy, China is the US’s top competitor, while Russia remains a threat that must be contained.
  • A new defense strategy written before the Ukraine crisis prompted a major rewrite of the congressionally mandated document. It describes China and Russia as “increasingly aligned,” but they pose distinct challenges.
  • The Department of Labor is set to release the most recent inflation figures on Thursday.
  • The Federal Reserve is set to deliver interest rates for the fourth time in a row when it meets next month.
The news ticker on One Times Square in New York on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 announces stocks rise after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in 7 years. The rate has been raised 25 basis points with gradual raises each year if deemed necessary [Richard Levine/Corbis/Getty Images]

China Top US Competitor with Intent to Reshape International Order

The Biden administration identified China as the nation’s top competitor, while Russia remains a threat to be contained in a new defense strategy that also identifies inflation as a threat to global security.

According to Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, the United States is in the “early years of a decisive decade” in which “the terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China will be set.”

“The PRC’s assertiveness at home and abroad is advancing an illiberal vision across economic, political, security, and technological realms – in competition with the West,” he said at a Georgetown University event following the release of the administration’s long-delayed National Security Strategy.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted a major rewrite of the congressionally mandated document, which provides insight into the White House’s thinking on foreign policy and national security issues.

“This war has loomed large in the formulation of the strategy, as it should, but we do not believe it has blotted out the sun,” Sullivan said.

Fruit is sold at a supermarket on July 13, 2022, in New York City. – US consumer price inflation surged 9.1 percent over the past 12 months to June, the fastest increase since November 1981, according to government data released on July 13. Driven by record-high gasoline prices, the consumer price index jumped 1.3 percent in June, the Labor Department reported. [ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images]

China and Russia “Increasingly Aligned” but pose Distinct Challenges

The new 48-page public document describes China and Russia as “increasingly aligned,” but the two countries pose distinct challenges.

It describes China as the US’s only competitor “with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so.” The challenge of dealing with Russia is described as “constraining a still profoundly dangerous” force.

Biden officials released their strategy more than 600 days into his presidency, compared to just over 300 days for former President Donald Trump’s team. The Trump document portrayed China and Russia as equal threats.

According to the strategy, by the 2030s, the US will need to deter two major nuclear powers for the first time. “To ensure our nuclear deterrent remains responsive to the threats we face,” it says, “we are modernizing our nuclear force as well as strengthening our extended deterrence commitments to our allies.”

When it comes to China, the Biden administration wants to emphasize that they are “looking for competition but not conflict — and we are not looking for a new Cold War.”

Children wave Chinese national flags during a celebration at a promenade on October 1, 2021 in Hong Kong, China. [Anthony Kwan/Getty Images]

Climate Change, Inflation Threats

Inflation, Democrats’ biggest political liability, is also mentioned as a threat to global security, less than a month before midterm elections that will determine whether Biden’s party retains control of the House and Senate. It names inflation as one of the cross-border issues that “people all over the world are struggling to deal with.”

Inflation has been a drag on Democrats’ midterm prospects. The latest inflation figures will be released by the Department of Labor on Thursday, the last release before Election Day. The median estimate of economists polled by Bloomberg is for an annual rate of 8.1%, the lowest since February.

Rising prices also have the Federal Reserve poised to deliver its fourth consecutive 75-basis-point hike when it meets early next month, just days before the election. The central bank’s rate hikes have fueled fears of a recession. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Biden stated that a US recession is possible, but that any downturn would be “very slight,” and that the US economy is resilient enough to weather the storm.

Climate change is among the other cross-border issues mentioned. “The window of opportunity to deal with shared challenges like climate change will narrow dramatically even as the intensity of those challenges grows,” Sullivan said.

The new strategy does not address one long-pending issue: Sullivan told reporters earlier Wednesday that the US Trade Representative’s review of Trump’s Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports will continue “in the coming months.” He stated that the review “will produce outcomes and recommendations to the president about a way forward.”

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