Secretary of State Rex Tillerson rebuked China on Wednesday for destabilizing the global order and subverting its neighboring countries’ sovereignty with its “predatory” economic policies. At the same time, he expressed the Trump administration’s determination to increase cooperation with India, which unlike China he believes has a stabilizing influence in Asia.
“China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order,” Tillerson said in his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for,” the top U.S. diplomat added.
Tillerson pointed out that the U.S. seeks to have a constructive relationship with China, but refuses to cower because of China’s disrespect of rules-based order. The comments come only weeks before the president’s first official travel to China.
In his remarks, Tillerson also criticized China’s economic practices in smaller countries, which he believes burden these countries with “enormous level of debt” and don’t create new jobs. He said the U.S. was offering them an alternative to Beijing’s model.
The final result is “not a structure that supports the future growth of these countries. It’s time to expand transparent, high standard regional lending mechanisms — tools that will actually help nations instead of saddling them with mounting debt,” Tillerson said.
The secretary of state also explained his vision of an “Indo Pacific” policy that would stretch from the United States west coast to India and would be supported by their allies. This policy would include India, Japan and Australia, all of which are seen as strong democracies and important allies in accomplishing this vision. This move, however, may be perceived by China as a challenge in this region which it believes is becoming part of its area of influence.