The United States is facing direct competition from China on the global stage - both political and economic, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
This is probably for the first time that a top US official has used such a strong language of competition with China in diplomatic terms.
"We are in a competition for influence with China. Let's put aside the moral, humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in, and let's just talk straight, realpolitik. We are in a competition with China," Clinton said in response to
a question at a Congressional hearing of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"Take Papua New Guinea: huge energy find. ExxonMobil is producing it. China is in there every day in every way, trying to figure out how it's going to come in behind us, come in under us. They're supporting the dictatorial regime that,
unfortunately, is now in charge of Fiji," she noted.
Clinton said China is extremely active diplomatically and commercially. "They have brought all of the leaders of these small Pacific nations to Beijing, wined them and dined them. I mean, if anybody thinks that our retreating on these issues is somehow going to be irrelevant to the maintenance of our leadership in a world where we are competing with China, where we are competing with Iran, that is a mistaken notion," "So I would strongly support this on humanitarian, moral, values- based grounds; that we do the right thing, we
get credit for it. But I also look at this from a strategic perspective, and it is essential," she argued.
The United States must be strong at home in order to maintain its strength abroad, she said, adding "At the core of our strength is our economic strength."
"The necessity for us to take action to begin to rein in our debt, and particularly our indebtedness to foreign countries, the top of the list being China," she stressed.
"There are many different forces at work. I believe it would have been a lot nicer being secretary of State during the Cold War. You know, we had a really clear view: You know, you were with us; you were against us; and here's how we
calculated. It's much more complicated right now. And therefore, I don't want us to lose ground, even while we work on trying to get our budget," Clinton said as she warned the Congress of cutting America s foreign budget.