President-elect Joe Biden‘s secretary of state nominee welcomed bipartisan foreign policy ideas and said President Donald Trump was largely right in taking a hard stance toward China during his tenure in the White House.
The incoming president’s pick to lead the U.S. State Department, former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, told Senate confirmation hearing members that “no party has a monopoly on good ideas.” Blinken reiterated his opposition to “the way Trump went about” implementing his foreign policy, but he supported the president’s peace efforts in Israel and the Balkans. In regards to China, which current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused of committing “genocide” on Tuesday, Blinken said he supports Trump’s approach of leveraging U.S. strength.
“I think there are a number of things, from where I sat, that the Trump administration did beyond our borders that I would applaud,” Blinken told Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson, pushing back against partisan remarks about his previous boss, former President Barack Obama.
“I also believe President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China. I disagree very much with the way he went about it in a number of ways, but the basic principle was the right one and I think that’s very helpful to our foreign policy,” Blinken said. “I have issues with the way he carried it out, in many ways.”
Johnson agreed, saying Trump “opened everybody’s eyes in terms of China’s malign intent.”
Senate confirmation hearings for several Biden Cabinet roles—including director of national intelligence, treasury secretary and homeland security secretary—are taking place alongside Blinken’s on Tuesday. He reiterated that “ceding ground” to China in the international marketplace allows them to write the rules and undermines America’s position of strength. Blinken criticized Trump for what he views as a severing of ties with some of the U.S.’s strongest allies—a united front needed to compete or work with China in the future.
“There is no doubt [China] poses the most significant challenge of any nation state to the United States in terms of our interests and the interests of the American people,” Blinken said Tuesday. “We have to start by approaching China from a position of strength, not weakness. The good news is our ability to do that is largely within our control—a position of strength is when we are working with and not denigrating our allies. That is a source of strength for us when dealing with China.”
Pompeo on Tuesday made the U.S. the first country to declare China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur people “genocide.” The announcement was dismissed by Beijing as a parting shot from the Trump administration, but Pompeo accused China of “crimes against humanity.”
When asked if he agrees with Pompeo’s “genocide” accusation against China, Blinken said “that would be my judgment as well.”
Blinken summarized his approach to China by describing three possible avenues of action: “There are rising adversarial aspects to the relationship, certainly competitive ones and still some cooperative ones when it is in our mutual interest.” He praised the Trump administration’s role in the Abraham Accords and “normalization with Israel” in the Middle East. He also approved Trump’s time spent trying to “move Kosovo forward” in disputes with Serbia over the past four years.
Newsweek reached out to the State Department as well as the Biden transition team for additional remarks Tuesday afternoon.