Blinken Offers Veiled Jabs as Top China Diplomat Hosts UN Event

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken used a speech to the United Nations on multilateralism to issue a not-so-subtle rebuke of China’s behavior on everything from human rights to territorial disputes. He also acknowledged what he called American missteps during the Trump administration.

Speaking minutes after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi -- who was hosting the virtual UN Security Council event on Friday -- Blinken appeared to take aim at Beijing’s expansive but disputed claims in the South China Sea and its treatment of Uyghur minorities in the western region of Xinjiang, as well as Russian actions toward Ukraine.

Without ever saying the word “China,” the top U.S. diplomat criticized nations seeking “to resolve territorial disputes by using or threatening force” or claiming entitlement to a “sphere of influence to dictate or coerce the choices and decisions of another country.”

On human rights, Blinken disputed the notion that the UN or other international blocs can’t criticize violations taking place within a country’s borders, saying no nation has a “blank check.” China has told nations criticizing its policies in Xinjiang to stop interfering in domestic affairs.

China’s Wang kicked off the event by calling on countries to “pursue equity and justice, not bullying and hegemony.” After Blinken spoke, Wang said all countries would like to see the U.S. “change course” and practice multilateralism.

“Splitting the world along ideological lines conflicts with the spirit of multilateralism,” said Wang.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was more explicit, saying that Western nations use the phrase “rules-based order” to impose their own national interests on the rest of the world.

“It’s amazing that Western leaders, openly undermining international law, don’t hesitate to assert that the main goal of global politics should be to counter Russian and Chinese attempts to change the order,” Lavrov said in his address. “The West is no longer concerned with the standards of international law and is now demanding that everyone follow its rules and observe the order it has established.”

Blinken’s address followed his meeting with allied leaders from the Group of Seven nations in London this week, where officials singled out China for criticism. China lashed out at the G-7 statement at the end of the meeting, criticizing “clique politics” and urging Western nations to stop meddling in its internal issues.

Despite ascending to the rotating presidency of the Security Council in May, China is increasingly under fire. Beijing decided to cancel an economic dialogue with Australia and its diplomats assailed New Zealand because lawmakers there declared human rights abuses are occurring in China’s Xinjiang region. In the early weeks of the Biden administration, Beijing bristled at U.S. efforts to raise the profile of the Quad -- an alliance with Japan, India and Australia -- that was seen as a rebuke of China.

Blinken Offers Veiled Jabs as Top China Diplomat Hosts UN Event

Blinken sought to use his speech on Friday to reassure allies and rivals that the U.S. sees the UN as a critical player in global issues. He said he understood if other nations were wary of U.S. intentions after the Trump administration’s “America First” approach to the world, which saw the former president withdraw the country from UN bodies like the Human Rights Council and World Health Organization.

Blinken Offers Veiled Jabs as Top China Diplomat Hosts UN Event

Those types of actions “have undermined the rules-based order and led others to question whether we are still committed to it,” Blinken said.

And he insisted the U.S. is seeking a stable international order for the benefit of all nations.

“Let me be clear -- the United States is not seeking to uphold this rules-based order to keep other nations down,” Blinken said. “The international order we helped build and defend has enabled the rise of some of our fiercest competitors. Our aim is simply to defend, uphold, and revitalize that order.”

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