Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Defense, Commerce, State Secretaries: Budget Cuts will Hamper U.S. Competition with China


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But they’re still being cautious with their rhetoric when discussing American efforts vs. Beijing.

In the midst of a negotiations between Congress and the White House to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default, three cabinet secretaries – big ones that you’ve heard of, not the kinds you forgettestified Tuesday afternoon at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Appropriation Committee about national security and economic competitiveness vis-à-vis the U.S. relationship with China.

In short, their message was: We’ve got a comprehensive plan to deal with the challenge China represents (so don’t cut President Biden’s budget!).

Every failure to pass a full-year, on-time appropriation harms our national security,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “We must break this pattern.”

“This budget positions the United States to up our game in the Indo-Pacific, the frontline in our competition with Beijing,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“The effectiveness of all these investments would be threatened by a misguided return to FY 2022 enacted levels,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, “or a draconian 22% reduction to our spending in FY 2024.”

But even while three cabinet secretaries is a legitimate show of force and demonstrates to Senate appropriators the level of seriousness with which the Biden administration is approaching competition with China, what really caught my attention was the tone they took when describing their comprehensive approach.

For example, here’s Blinken again:

We are not trying to contain China. And in fact, the United States continues to have a comprehensive trade and investment relationship with China, as do most of our allies and partners. We are for de-risking and diversifying, not decoupling. That means investing in our own capacities and in secure, resilient supply chains; pushing for a level playing field for our workers and companies and defending against harmful trade practices; and ensuring that U.S. and allied technology isn’t used against us.

This above sounds remarkably like the speech the U.S. National Security Adviser gave recently at a DC think tank, and it kinda sounds like the language use U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen gave before that. De-risking, not decoupling. No winners-take-all here; competition is fierce, but it’s no Cold War.

It appears to be part of a serious attempt by the Biden administration to tamp down tensions and get the U.S. and Chinese sides talking again, even as Washington trains its focus on a new and invigorating effort against an economic rival. It will be interesting to see where it leads.


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