(His immediate predecessor, Mike Pompeo, frequently gave talks around the United States to college students, factory workers and religious groups — although critics noted that he also chose venues and audiences potentially tied to his presumed future political aspirations.)
Although Mr. Blinken said several countries — including Russia, Iran and North Korea — posed serious challenges, he made clear that China was America’s chief rival.
He repeated Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to alternate among competitive, collaborative and potentially confrontational postures toward China on different issues, and said strong alliances were the best way to counterbalance Beijing. “Where we pulled back, China has filled in,” Mr. Blinken said.
But he offered few specifics, a vagueness that drew cautionary notes from some former State Department officials, who said that matching Beijing’s global influence would require expensive diplomatic and development efforts.
“We cannot confront China on the cheap,” said Brett Bruen, a former career diplomat and White House official in the Obama administration.
Mr. Pompeo had also routinely singled out China during the Trump administration, calling it a rampant violator of human rights whose communist leaders had encroached on foreign territories and failed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr. Blinken repeatedly drew contrasts with the previous administration and President Donald J. Trump’s bombastic “America First” approach. “Real strength isn’t bluster or bullying,” he said.