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Clinton says U.S. 'can't blame' China for 'acting in its own self-interest'

'We can question ourselves for not being more effective in how we deal with China's new, more aggressive, ambitious approach,' Clinton says

Published: August 17, 2020 4:19pm

Updated: August 17, 2020 7:15pm

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the U.S. "can't blame" China for acting in its own self-interest militarily, economically and internationally but predicted that a Biden administration would be able to bring about a "steadier" and "more predictable course" to China policy.

"For a number of decades, it was certainly in America's interest and the world's interest, I would argue, to support China's economic rise to work to include China in the international order, in all kinds of institutional ways, but I think any relationship has to be constantly reevaluated," Clinton said during a discussion organized by the Atlantic Council.

"As we've seen with (China leader) Xi Jinping, a lot of the aggressive nature of China's ambitions, now, are very clear – militarily and strategically, economically, internationally. And so you require a clear and and consistent approach to China, which we have not seen under the Trump administration," Clinton also said.

The former 2016 Democratic presidential nominee argued that the "series of economic actions" the administration has taken against China haven't been "particularly effective."

"In the meantime, China has extended its road and belt program and increased its influence not only across Asia, but into Africa, into the South Pacific, even into Europe and certainly, Latin America. China is not only building infrastructure nationally, but through a competitive infrastructure bank that it has set up," she said.

China's road and belt initiative is a Chinese government effort to invest in transportation and infrastructure projects in other countries.

"So you see with China, they're playing the long game. And as I say, you can't blame a country for acting in its own self interest. We can question ourselves for not being more effective in how we deal with China's new, more aggressive, ambitious approach," Clinton said.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton often criticized rival Donald Trump's "America first" approach to foreign policy. In March, Clinton mocked "America first" in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the discussion on Monday, Clinton said the U.S. government "should not shy away from continuing to speak out about human rights" in China, specifically about the Uyghurs and about the crackdown in Hong Kong.

"I think there's a real audience within China and around the world for the United States regaining its voice when it comes to human rights," she said. "So there's a real opportunity here that I think that a Biden-Harris administration would quickly seize, to try to get our relationship with China back on a steadier, more predictable course and reassert America's standing and leadership in Asia and beyond."

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