President Joe Biden’s first formal national security strategy identifies China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” while stressing the importance of rebuilding alliances in order to effectively compete over the coming decade.
The document, required by Congress, comes 21 months into Biden’s term. The broad contours of the strategy have been in evidence over the course of the President’s tenure, including a focus on rebuilding global partnerships and countering China and Russia.
But by placing into writing the pillars of his foreign policy, Biden is laying out his vision of a world where America and its allies are increasingly in contest with China, even as he works to avoid a Cold War-style standoff.
“Around the world, the need for American leadership is as great as it has ever been. We are in the midst of a strategic competition to shape the future of the international order,” Biden writes in the introduction to the strategy.
“We will not leave our future vulnerable to the whims of those who do not share our vision for a world that is free, open, prosperous, and secure,” he goes on. “As the world continues to navigate the lingering impacts of the pandemic and global economic uncertainty, there is no nation better positioned to lead with strength and purpose than the United States of America.”
The document states “the most pressing strategic challenge facing our vision is from powers that layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy,” singling out China and Russia as particular but different challenges.
“Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of the international order today, as its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown,” the document reads. “(China), by contrast, is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective.”
Speaking to reporters, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the strategy made clear the White House wasn’t viewing the world “solely through the prism of strategic competition.”
“We are not seeking competition to tip over into confrontation or a new cold war,” he said.
Still, Sullivan said it was critical to identify the challenges posed by China before it’s too late.
“This decisive decade is critical both for defining the terms of competition, particular with the (People’s Republic of China), and for getting ahead of massive challenges that if we lose the time this decade we will not be able to keep pace with,” he said.