WASHINGTON: The United States, working with its partners and allies is going to hold China “accountable” in the region and also press Beijing to follow the rules on a range of issues, including the South China Sea, President Joe Biden has said.
Addressing his first formal news conference in the White House on Thursday, Biden referred to his recent meeting with leaders of the Quad countries involving India, Australia and Japan and said that soon he is going to invite an alliance of democracies to come to Washington DC to “discuss the future”.
“Earlier this month, and apparently got the Chinese attention, that’s not why did it, I met with our allies and — how we’re going to hold China accountable in the region, Australia, India, Japan, the United States, the so-called Quad, because we have to have democracies working together,” he said while answering a question on US-China relations under his watch.
“We are going to make it clear that, in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, to follow the rules, whether it relates to the South China Sea or the North China Sea or the agreement made on Taiwan or a whole range of other things,” he asserted.
The virtual summit on March 12 was attended by President Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
In a joint statement, the four leaders of the Quad had pledged to strengthen cooperation on the “defining challenges of our time” and said they will continue to prioritise the role of international law in the maritime domain and facilitate collaboration, including in maritime security, to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas.
The first summit of the four leaders took place amidst China’s increasing military muscle flexing in the Indo-Pacific region has become a major talking point among leading global powers. The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China’s growing assertiveness.
Biden’s restricted press conference, amidst the pandemic, was attended by 30 reporters from various media outlets, including two foreign correspondents.
President Biden, in response to a question, said he sees “stiff competition” with China.
“China has an overall goal — and I don’t criticise them for the goal, but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow and expand,” he said.
After becoming the 46th President of the United States on January 20, Biden has spoken with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over the phone once. The phone call, he said, lasted for two hours.
Biden said as vice president during the Obama administration, he spent hours together with Xi, also general secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China and the commander-in-chief of the military.
“It was very, very straightforward. He doesn’t have a democratic with a small D-bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy. He’s one of the guys like Putin who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future. Democracy can’t function in an ever complex world,” he said.
When President Xi called him to congratulate him, Biden said they talked for two hours.
During the conversation, “we made several things clear to one another. I made it clear to him again what I told him in person on several occasions, that we’re not looking for confrontation, although we know there will be steep, steep competition,” Biden said.
“Two, that we’ll have strong competition but we’ll insist that China play by the international rules, fair competition, fair practices, fair trade. Thirdly, in order to compete effectively, I indicated that we’re going to deal with China effectively.”
Biden said his administration was going to do three things. First, his administration will invest in American workers and American science.
Biden said he is setting up his administration to be able to do that.
He noted that back in the ‘60s, America used to invest a little over 2 per cent of the entire GDP in pure research and investment in science. Today, it’s 0.7 per cent. “I’m going to change that. We’re going to change that,” Biden said.
“The future lies in who can, in fact, own the future as it relates to technology, quantum computing, a whole range of things, including in medical fields. And so what I’m going to do is make sure we invest closer to 2 per cent,” he said.
The US is going to make real investments, Biden said, adding that “China is out investing us by a longshot, because their plan is to own that future.”
The third thing what his administration was going to do is to reestablish America’s alliances, he said.
“I’ve been very clear with it. It’s not anti-Chinese. We have talked about it”, the president said.