In a speech detailing the shared economic and security interests of the U.S. and India on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — “publicly castrated” by Donald Trump last week after reports surfaced that he had called the President a “moron — issued a backhanded rebuke of China’s rise to global prominence.
“The United States seeks constructive relations with China,” he said. “But we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rule-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.”
Slated to visit New Delhi next week, Tillerson praised India’s “responsible” geopolitical rise and commended it for “operating within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty.” Less than a month before President Trump’s first state visit to China, which will align with the one year anniversary of his electoral victory, Tillerson was critical of China’s “provocative” posture in the South China Sea and its infrastructure investment programs, “which often fail to promote jobs or prosperity,” he claimed.
The financing mechanisms for these programs, he suggested, saddle other countries with “enormous levels of debt.” He vowed to develop alternative infrastructure financing schemes.
“The United States is committed to working with any nation in South Asia or the broader region that shares our vision of an Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rules-based system is respected,” he added, in an apparent slight by omission against China.
In the question and answer session that followed Tillerson’s remarks, he said, “We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that we can have with a major democracy.”
With the 19th Party Plenum underway this week in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang called on the US to “abandon its prejudices” Thursday in response to Tillerson’s remarks, CNN reported.
[Images via NBC News]