One of the top contenders to be Joe Biden’s secretary of state told Reuters in an interview on Friday that the US must prepare for a possible conflict with China.
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) said the US has “to prepare for the possibility of conflict with China.” He said this could be done by “being more active and more engaged on the world stage along with our allies.”
Coons also said he hopes a bipartisan US policy forms to “out-compete” China. While Coons stressed that the US and China are competitors, he also said cooperation in some areas is important.
“I see clearly that China is a peer competitor. And we have to be able at the same time, to cooperate with China in those areas where it’s essential,” he said. “There’s a whole series of areas where the world is only going to get safer and more stable if the United States and China cooperate, but our main focus has to be competing with China.”
The idea that China is Washington’s top competitor seems already to be a bipartisan consensus in China. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans released a report calling for a more multilateral approach to counter China’s influence by working with allies, echoing comments made by Biden just days earlier.
The Trump administration has pursued an incredibly hardline approach towards China, which escalated this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The area that risks a military confrontation the most is the South China Sea, where the US regularly sails warships and flies military aircraft to challenge China’s claims to the waters.
Biden is expected to keep up the pressure on Beijing in the South China Sea. One of the contenders to be Biden’s secretary of defense, Michele Flournoy, wrote in Foreign Affairs that the US should have the ability to sink all Chinese vessels in the South China Sea “within 72 hours” as deterrence for Beijing’s activity in the waters.