The US president is right to say he does not want a cold war with China
“We’re not seeking – say it again, we are not seeking – a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs,” President Joe Biden told the United Nations general assembly on Tuesday. That is a relief. Washington’s undeclared opponent is, as almost all observers agree, Beijing. In his address, however, Mr Biden made it clear he is determined to ensure that the rise of China will not mean the decline of the US.
The US president said he was willing to “work together with our democratic partners” on breakthroughs in technology which can be “used to lift people up … and advance human freedom – not to suppress dissent or target minority communities”. This is admirable rhetoric, though some sceptics may spy the promotion of US national interests under the guise of a foreign policy that favours democracies. There are also dangers in an overly hawkish prosecution of this approach. Pushing Ukraine’s membership in Nato as a pro-democracy step may bring about a Russian military response. Taiwan’s democracy has to be defended without Washington being pulled into a confrontation with Beijing. The challenges of this era, such as the climate emergency, also require international cooperation to deliver global public goods and prevent beggar-thy-neighbour policies.