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February 17, 2023

Remarks at Global China Event

Deputy Secretary Sherman is sitting on a stage with two other people. She is speaking with one arm outstretched.


Good morning everyone. Thank you, Suzanne, for that introduction, and thank you to the team at Brookings for organizing today’s discussion.

You know, when we first talked about doing an event tied to your Global China program, the topic was, in a sense, evergreen. We could have planned this conversation virtually anytime.

The People’s Republic of China, the challenges it poses, the stakes for global norms and values, the strategies and policy choices demanded from the United States and our partners — these questions have stood front and center from the moment President Biden took office.

We’ve known that the PRC is the pacing geopolitical challenge of our era – one that will test American diplomacy like few issues in recent memory.

We’ve recognized that the PRC is the only competitor with the intent and the means to reshape the rules-based international order.

We’ve witnessed how these facts play out in real time: in the PRC’s provocative acts in the South China Sea; its human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet; its use of economic coercion; its threatening behavior against Taiwan and more.

All of that was true two weeks ago. Then the American people saw the latest example of that reality, after the U.S. government detected, closely tracked, and ultimately shot down a PRC high-altitude surveillance balloon that had entered our territorial airspace, in a clear violation of our national sovereignty and international law.

Let me add that the PRC’s high-altitude balloon surveillance program violated not only U.S. sovereignty, but, over the years, that of many other countries as well.

In response to this most recent incident, we worked swiftly and deliberately. We worked to keep Members of Congress up-to-date. We stayed in close touch with our allies.

We made it clear, directly to PRC officials, that the presence of this surveillance balloon was unacceptable.

This past Friday, the Commerce Department listed six PRC entities – firms that have directly supported the People’s Liberation Army’s aerospace programs, including airships, balloons, and related components.

Taken together, these steps reaffirm our Administration’s core priorities: we will always act decisively to protect the safety and security of the American people. We will always answer the challenges presented by the PRC with determination and resolve. We will always defend U.S. interests and ideals, promote universal human rights, and stand up for the rules-based international order.

Through it all, we have, we are, and we will maintain open lines of communication with the PRC so we can responsibly manage the competition between our countries.

We do not seek conflict with the PRC. We believe in the power of diplomacy to prevent miscalculations that can lead to conflict.

Where we can – where it enhances U.S. interests and global peace and security – we are ready to work with the PRC on issues that demand our collaboration: issues like climate, food security, counter-narcotics, global health, and more.

Still, the PRC’s irresponsible acts put on full display what we’ve long understood – that the PRC has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.

It reinforced the need for us to double-down on the core pillars of our strategy: “Invest, Align, Compete.”

Here’s what that means: simply put, we are investing in the foundation of our strength on our shores, with funding from bipartisan bills like the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

This includes an effort, led by Secretary Blinken, to modernize our work at the State Department and equip our remarkable diplomats and public servants to meet the challenges and opportunities of the decade ahead.

Our new China House is a key component of that agenda – an office that unites representatives from all bureaus under one roof to grow our capabilities and improve coordination between our headquarters, our posts in the PRC, and our diplomats worldwide.

Next, we are aligning with likeminded partners globally to strengthen our shared interests and values, and address the challenges posed by the PRC.

Finally, by investing in ourselves and aligning with our partners, we gain a stronger hand to compete with the PRC and push back against its aggressive military, diplomatic, and economic practices.

These are the building blocks of our approach. But for the balance of my comments, I want to drill down into that second pillar – align.

This is a vital piece of the puzzle, something you understand deeply and implicitly here at Brookings. Otherwise, why would you dub your initiative Global China?

It’s because you appreciate, as we do at the State Department, that the PRC challenge touches nearly, really, touches every region in the world, every function, every issue under the sun. So how we align our policies with other countries matters. Maybe now more than ever.

To that end, over the past two years, we have brought together the G7 and used it to drive outcomes on the world’s most pressing problems.

We have deepened our partnerships with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, India, and countries all over the map, on every continent.

We have never been more aligned with our partners in Europe on how the PRC impacts our shared security, prosperity, and values.

We have strengthened and deepened the U.S.-EU Dialogue on China and Indo-Pacific Consultations; advanced democratic approaches to trade, technology, and security through the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council; and placed the PRC and Indo-Pacific at the top of the agenda in the Transatlantic relationship.

We have instructed our diplomats to engage on this challenge in the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, South America – on every single continent.

We have amplified this work with our team of Regional China Officers who coordinate with embassies to monitor and push back on problematic PRC inroads.

We have made a concerted effort to share information with our partners to reinforce the scope of the threats posed by the PRC – and the necessity of our unity in confronting them.

Make no mistake: we do not seek another Cold War. But we do ask everyone to play by the same set of rules, so that all countries and all people can make their own choices.

With our partnerships in place, we will keep pushing back against PRC activities that seek to coerce other countries, distort markets, and undermine American workers and businesses.

We will continue to oppose Beijing’s unlawful acts in the South and East China Seas, hold accountable those involved in human rights violations in Tibet and Xinjiang, and support the people of Hong Kong.

We will continue to do everything possible to bring home unjustly detained Americans.

We will continue to warn the PRC against providing military support to Russia’s war in Ukraine – and to crack down on PRC entities engaged in harmful activities.

We will keep working to address the PRC’s transnational repression, including their so-called “overseas police stations” that restrict the rights of the Chinese diaspora around the world.

We will keep taking decisive steps to prevent the PRC’s exploitation of U.S. technology to enable its own military modernization.

Finally, we will keep working to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We remain committed to our longstanding one China policy and oppose any unilateral shifts to the cross-Strait status quo.

Our policy has not changed. What has changed is Beijing’s growing coercion. So we will keep assisting Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.

When all is said and done, what President Biden said in the State of the Union rings true: we are now in “the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else.”

With so many big-ticket items on our radar – no pun intended – the stakes could not be higher. We must act with resolve, with reason, with deliberation and cooperation toward the future we seek.

That is what makes our “align” pillar so essential, when it comes to the PRC or when we tackle any other issue around the world.

No matter what challenges we face, our relationships are central.

Our ability to tap into our wellspring of diplomatic bonds; our collaboration with partners abroad; our investment in bilateral ties and multilateral institutions – it is all essential to sustaining and strengthening a system rooted in long-held norms and rules.

Our Administration is doing this hard work of diplomacy year-round. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t lead the headlines. But progress would not be possible – our goals and any positive news would not be achievable – without the tough steps we take every day, far from the spotlight.

We saw this on display just over the past two days, as I hosted my counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japan for our fifth trilateral meeting.

Our agenda was robust, covering everything from development to health to democracy promotion and defense.

Together, we touted the importance of our coordination across the Indo-Pacific. We highlighted our unified response to the DPRK’s destabilizing behavior. We renewed our commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We reiterated our support for global norms in the face of the PRC’s efforts to undermine them.

We reaffirmed our support for Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked invasion and committed to ongoing, collective action on human rights, gender equality, food security, energy affordability, humanitarian assistance, economic fairness, and on and on.

We also brought the EU’s Secretary General into these discussions – yet another sign of how our policies and priorities are aligning with partners everywhere. and helping other countries and institutions align with each other as well.

This gathering happened just after we marked one year since the launch of our Indo-Pacific Strategy: our affirmative vision for a region that is free and open, connected and secure, prosperous and resilient; a vision defined not in terms of what we’re against, but what we stand for – our common values and interests, dynamic economies and free societies.

Alongside partners across the Indo-Pacific, we are doing our part to promote democracy, the rule of law, economic prosperity, freedom of navigation, free and open media, and more.

We are advancing commitments made at the Summit for Democracy; pursuing strategic dialogues with the ROK, Japan, and Vietnam on governance and human rights; standing up for democracy and dignity in Burma; and funding civil society organizations across South Asia.

We are elevating our engagement with our friends in the region, with new embassies in Solomon Islands and Maldives; with plans for greater diplomatic presence in the Pacific Islands; with regular collaboration with the Quad – that’s Australia, India, the U.S., and Japan; there’s another Quad in Europe – ASEAN, Partners in the Blue Pacific, and beyond.

We are driving regional prosperity through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is tackling issues around supply chains, trade, the digital economy, and the clean energy transition.

Through our APEC host year, we are focused, as our theme says, on “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All.” Through our work with India, we are strengthening innovation ecosystems in both our countries. Through these examples and many others, we are advancing the economic development and dynamism of the entire region.

We are also strengthening regional security by modernizing our defense cooperation, conducting extended deterrence dialogues, and increasing joint military exercises. We are bolstering maritime safety and growing countries’ capacity to monitor their own waters and cyberspace. We are deepening key alliances as well: designating new Enhanced Defense Cooperation sites with the Philippines and advancing the Australia-United Kingdom-U.S. partnership.

Finally, we are building up regional resilience by investing in pandemic preparedness; delivering 267 million doses of safe and effective COVID vaccines to the region; mobilizing billions of dollars in clean energy, clean air, and climate projects from Indonesia to Vietnam to Bhutan.

Here’s the bottom line: with our Indo-Pacific Strategy – as with our wide range of relationships worldwide – we are reinforcing the architecture of diplomacy, of global engagement, of international dialogue.

In the face of so many challenges, this must, and will, remain the bedrock of our foreign policy. part of a proactive strategy to forge a planet defined by cooperation and collaboration, shared prosperity and steady progress.

This grows out of what the President called for when he took office: to reinvigorate America’s network of partnerships and alliances; to deepen our engagement in multilateral institutions; to tap into longtime relationships and build new coalitions designed to meet the tests of our time.

This couldn’t be more essential. Because when we do this effectively, we place ourselves at the heart of a global effort to make real the promise of diplomacy – realizing the vision of a world that’s more dynamic and democratic, prosperous and peaceful, fair and free.

Thank you.