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US labels China as nation’s top competitor, capable of reshaping global order

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The Biden administration labelled China as the nation’s top competitor, while Russia remains a danger to be constrained in a new defence strategy that also calls inflation a threat to global security.

Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said Wednesday that the US is in “the early years of a decisive decade” in which “the terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China will be set.”

“The PRC’s assertiveness at home and abroad is advancing an illiberal vision across economic, political, security and technological realms — in competition with the West,” he said at a Georgetown University event following the release of the administration’s long-delayed National Security Strategy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a major rewrite of the congressionally mandated document, which provides a window into the White House’s thinking on foreign policy and national security issues.

“This war has loomed large in the formulation of the strategy, as it should, but we do not believe it has blotted out the sun,” said Sullivan.

The new 48-page public document describes China and Russia as “increasingly aligned” with each other, but says the two countries pose distinct challenges. 

It calls China the US’s only competitor “with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.” The challenge of handling Russia is described as one of “constraining a still profoundly dangerous” force.

Biden officials released their strategy more than 600 days into his administration, compared with the just over 300 days it took former President Donald Trump’s team. The Trump document portrayed China and Russia as co-equal threats.

By the 2030s, the US for the first time will need to deter two major nuclear powers, according to the strategy, in reference to those countries. “To ensure our nuclear deterrent remains responsive to the threats we face, we are modernizing” the US nuclear force “as well as strengthening our extended deterrence commitments to our allies,” it says.

When it comes to China, the Biden administration is seeking to reinforce that they’re “looking for competition but not conflict — and we’re not looking for a new Cold War.”

Inflation Threat

The document also mentions inflation, Democrats’ biggest political liability, as among the threats to global security, less than a month before midterm elections which will determine if Biden’s party retains control of the House and Senate. It lists inflation as one of the cross-border issues “people all over the world are struggling to cope with.”

Stubbornly high inflation has been a drag on Democrats’ midterm prospects. The Department of Labor will release the latest inflation numbers Thursday, the last release before Election Day. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for a 8.1% annual rate — the lowest since February. 

Rising prices also have the Federal Reserve poised to deliver its fourth-straight 75-basis-point hike when it meets early next month, just days before voters go to the polls. The central bank’s rate hikes have fueled concerns of a recession. In an interview Tuesday with CNN, Biden said a recession in the US is possible but any downturn would be “very slight” and the US economy is resilient enough to ride out the turbulence.

Among the other cross-border issues cited is climate change. “The window of opportunity to deal with shared challenges like climate change will narrow drastically even as the intensity of those challenges grows,” Sullivan said.

One long-pending issue remains unresolved by the new strategy: Sullivan told reporters earlier Wednesday that the US trade representative’s review of Trump’s Section 301 tariffs on imports from China will continue “over the coming months.” He said the review “will produce outcomes and recommendations to the president about a way forward.” 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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