United States

U.S. secretary of state nominee Blinken sees strong foundation for bipartisan China policy

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WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday he believed President Donald Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China - even if he did not agree with all his methods - and endorsed the assessment that it was committing genocide in Xinjiang.

Blinken told his Senate confirmation hearing there was "no doubt" China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation, and added he believed there was a very strong foundation to build a bipartisan policy to stand up to Beijing.

Asked whether he agreed with outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's assessment on Tuesday that China was committing genocide against minority Muslims, Blinken replied: “That would be my judgment as well.” read more

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"I think we're very much in agreement," he said. "The forcing of men, women and children into concentration camps; trying to, in effect, re-educate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide."

China denies U.S. accusations of human rights violations.

Asked how he would respond in his first 30 days as secretary of state, Blinken replied:

"I think we should be looking at making sure that we are not importing products that are made with forced labor from Xinjiang ... we need to make sure that we're also not exporting technologies and tools that could be used to further their repression. That’s one place to start."

Blinken said the United States under Biden, who takes office on Wednesday, would uphold its commitment to ensure that self-ruled Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province, has the ability to defend itself.

He also said he would like to see Taiwan play a greater role around the world. Blinken said that in international organizations that do not require the status of a country, Taiwan should become a member, and in others that do, "there are others ways that they can participate."

Blinken said he was in favor of greater engagement with Taiwan and referred to a move by Pompeo to relax restrictions on official dealings with Taipei. read more

"I want to see that process through to conclusion if it hasn't been completed, to make sure that we're acting pursuant to the mandate in the (Taiwan Assurance) act that looks at creating more space for contacts."

Blinken said he had received Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at the State Department when she was running for office and talked to her on a number of occasions after she became president in 2016, adding: "That in and of itself I think is important."

Blinken said China had under President Xi Jinping abandoned decades of "hiding their hand and biding their time in terms of asserting their interests beyond China's borders.

"I think that what we've seen in recent years, particularly since the rise of Xi Jinping as the leader, has been that the hiding and biding has gone away," he said.

"They are much more assertive in making clear that they seek to become in effect the leading country in the world, the country that sets the norms, that sets the standards, and to put forward a model they hope other countries, and people will ascribe to."

Blinken said it was the obligation of the United States "to demonstrate that the vision we have, the policies we pursue, and the way we do it, is much more effective in actually delivering for our people, as well as for people around the world, to make sure that our model is the one that carries the day."

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Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Patricia Zengerle, Humeyra Pamuk and Michael Martina; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney

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