Joe Biden’s stance on China differs dramatically from Donald Trump’s.
Despite early hopes in Beijing that the Democrat would help reset the crucial relationship after four years of antagonism under Donald Trump, ties between the US and China remain at rock bottom eight months into Joe Biden’s presidency.
The two governments are communicating again, but it appears that they are speaking at cross purposes, with each stating its own core values in front of an interlocutor who could as well be completely absent from the debate.
While Xi Jinping waits with bated breath for Trump-era measures targeting China and, in particular, the Communist Party to be reversed, Biden is quietly—and occasionally imperfectly—bringing America’s strengths to bear in what he has described as an existential battle of systems between democracy and authoritarianism.
The inflammatory language that accompanied Trump’s trade war and the outbreak of the coronavirus may have faded, but Biden’s calmer tone conceals deeper calculations that, when taken together, have never made the “China containment hypothesis” appear so plausible. Beijing has faced military challenges from the US, but it now faces severe rivalry in the fields of finance, technology, diplomacy, and even global health leadership.
Washington, D.C. has competed with Beijing’s vaccine diplomacy and is attempting to stifle Beijing’s influence in poor countries. It has met these obstacles by forming coalitions, leaving China fuming over what it refers to as “Cold War mindset.”
China’s authorities, and especially the country’s state news agencies, have focused on America’s shortcomings when it hasn’t lived up to expectations, but there is little evidence that China’s efforts to discredit the United States are having an impact outside of the intended audiences. More crucially, America persists in its efforts to maintain the present international order, which show no indications of slowing down.
“Trump largely saw any competition with mainland China in terms of the US vs. PRC [People’s Republic of China], whereas Biden appears to see things through the prism of the free world at large (with America in the lead) vs. Beijing,” said Sean King, senior vice president at Park Strategies in New York.
“The antagonism between Washington and Beijing is here to stay,” King warned. “And Biden appears to want to bring as many countries and peoples with him as possible.”
Su Tzu-yun is a fellow at Taiwan’s National Defense and Security Institute. This is a condensed version of the information.