In his first ever address to the United Nations General Assembly since taking office on Tuesday, Biden pledged that “We are not seeking the new Cold War, or the world divided into rigid blocks,” in what observers took to be a clear reference to China tensions. “The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up, that pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreement to shared challenges, because we will all suffer the consequences of our failures if we don’t come together to tackle COVID-19, climate change or threats like nuclear proliferation,” he said.
Is was a speech peppered with his ‘America is back’ message as a force for good on the world stage. He said the US intends to “lead on all of the greatest challenges of our time” while maintaining close relations with allies. Looming over everything, however, is a greater US confrontational posture with China. This prompted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his remarks to decry an increasingly divided world while making a plea for dialogue between Washington and Beijing.
“I fear our world is creeping towards two different sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules, two divergent approaches in the development of artificial intelligence – and ultimately two different military and geopolitical strategies,” Guterres said upon his opening the annual UN General Assembly.
“This is a recipe for trouble. It would be far less predictable than the Cold War. To restore trust and inspire hope, we need cooperation,” he added. “We need dialogue. We need understanding.”
Hinting at divided approaches to geopolitical hotspots and ongoing humanitarian crises brought on by instability, coups and military interventions, he called for the restoration of trust and cooperation among nations:
“We are also seeing an explosion in seizures of power by force. Military coups are back. The lack of unity among the international community does not help,” Guterres said.
“Geopolitical divisions are undermining international cooperation and limiting the capacity of the Security Council to take the necessary decisions.”
On the issue of the continued crisis in Afghanistan, where China is poised to be a major investor in cooperation with the Taliban government after the US retreated from the theater, Biden in his speech said his decision to pull troops out and end the war signaled that the “era of relentless war is over”:
“US military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first, and should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world,” Biden said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants.”
He pledged to devote US resources not to fighting “the wars of the past,” but to the challenges “that hold the keys to our collective futures.”
China’s President Xi Jinping will also address the UN assembly, but via video link. It’s expected that Xi will continue with his recent rhetoric emphasizing that the globe must reject “unilateralism pursued by certain countries.”
For example last spring at an address before a major pan-Asia economic forum, Xi stressed that “International affairs should be handled by everyone through consultation.” He said, “Rules made by one or more countries should not be forced upon others.”