China has been an aggressor against India along the Himalayan border, a top American diplomat nominated by President Joe Biden as his next envoy to Beijing has told lawmakers, stating that the US must hold the Chinese government accountable for failing to play by the rules.
Nicholas Burns told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that the US will challenge China where it must, including when Beijing takes actions that run counter to America’s values and interests; threaten the security of the United States or its allies and partners; or undermine the rules-based international order.
“Beijing has been an aggressor against India along their Himalayan border; against Vietnam, the Philippines, and others in the South China Sea; against Japan in the East China Sea; and has launched an intimidation campaign against Australia and Lithuania,“ Burns said.
China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
Beijing is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. It has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.
Burns, who served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008, said the “Chinese genocide in Xinjiang and abuses in Tibet, its smothering of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, and its bullying of Taiwan are unjust, and must stop“.
Beijing’s recent actions against Taiwan are especially objectionable and the US is right to continue to adhere to its one-China policy, he said.
“We are also right to support the peaceful resolution of disputes, and to oppose unilateral actions that undermine the status quo and stability in the Indo-Pacific,“ Burns, who led negotiations on the landmark US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, told Americans lawmakers.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state – but China views the self-ruled island as a breakaway province. Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve unification. Burns told lawmakers that the US will compete and compete vigorously with China where it should, including on jobs and the economy, critical infrastructure and emerging technologies.
The US will cooperate with China where it is in its interest, including on climate change, counter-narcotics, global health and non-proliferation, he told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
China, he said, seeks to become the most powerful military, economic, and political actor in the Indo-Pacific.
“We must stand with our allies and partners to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, including by maintaining America’s commercial and military superiority in 21st century technologies.