‘Invest, align, compete: A name-change of US strategy to counter China'

Beijing slams Washington on ‘opaque’ statement on China’s deals with Pacific Island countries.

‘Invest, align, compete: A name-change of US strategy to counter China'

Coming down hard on Washington over its recently announced “invest, align, and compete” strategy, Beijing on Wednesday called it yet another “name change” of the US strategy to counter China.

“The US’ so-called ‘invest, align, and compete’ strategy toward China is only a change in name of the US’ all-around, shameless crackdown on China,” said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

He asked Washington to “make the right choice and refrain from wordplay.”

Beijing’s comments came in response to Washington’s re-framed "contain China" policy which US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed last Thursday as to how the Joe Biden administration will approach the relations with China.

Calling Beijing a “long-term challenge” to what Blinken called “universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years,” he said Washington will pursue an "invest, align, compete" strategy to deal with Beijing.

‘Opaque, shadowy’ deals by China, alleges US

Responding to criticism by Washington on China’s dealings with Pacific Island countries, Zhao said: “The region is not a backyard for certain countries, but should become a big stage for international cooperation rather than an arena of geopolitical games.”

“China insists on openness and inclusiveness, and never forces countries to take sides or seeks so-called sphere of influence,” said Zhao.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been on a 10-day tour since May 26 to last until June 10, visiting Pacific Island countries to sign bilateral agreements but failed to arrive at a consensus with 10 nations for a region-wide deal that covers free trade, police cooperation, and disaster resilience.

Reiterating the US commitment to Pacific Island countries, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday: “When we talk about these opaque, shadowy deals, I think you need to only look at ... the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) efforts to obscure these very deals.”

“Such claims only expose its hegemonic mindset,” said Zhao, responding to Price, according to the Chinese daily Global Times.

Washington is leading a loose security alliance called Quad to counter China’s expanding economic and military influence in the region and has also announced a wider Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) which has been signed by at least 13 nations, including the US.

However, at a stopover in Fiji, Wang slammed the IPEF, saying: “If it deliberately excludes China, the largest market in the region and beyond, how can it be inclusive?

"What the United States is actually doing is putting other countries in a frame of its own standards and rules, and setting up a parallel system alongside the multilateral trading system based on the World Trade Organization,” Wang said.

Such an approach, alleged Wang, “runs counter to the basic laws of economics, puts shackles on the free market, and goes against the trend of economic globalization defined by exchanges and complementarity. It probably would get nowhere.”

Beijing opposes US-New Zealand joint statement

During Wednesday's news briefing, Zhao asked Wellington “to insist on independent diplomatic policy.”

“China firmly opposes the joint statement that distorted and smeared China’s normal cooperation with Pacific Island countries, deliberately hyped up the South China Sea, made irresponsible remarks on China’s internal affairs such as Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

He was reacting to a joint statement by Washington and Wellington after New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden in Washington a day earlier.

The two sides expressed “concern” regarding the security agreement signed by China and the Solomon Islands in April.

Beijing and Honiara have pushed back criticism over the pact.

Under the security deal, China will help the Solomon Islands enhance its security and equip the police force with the latest technology.

“It is never China’s foreign policy, nor is it Chinese style, to impose business deals on others, interfere in Solomon Islands’ internal affairs, or damage other countries’ interests,” Wang had said.

Calling for “a freer and more open Indo-Pacific” region, the US-New Zealand joint statement “reaffirmed” their “support for freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and beyond, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

“We reiterate our grave concerns regarding the human rights violations in Xinjiang, and the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. ... We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” it added.

Urging New Zealand to “insist on independent diplomatic policy,” Zhao asked Wellington to “engage in enhancing mutual trust in regional and national security and maintaining regional peace and stability.”

Zhao also said: "The US has military bases all over the world, yet raises so-called concerns about normal security cooperation between other countries."

Hüseyin Demir