Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden | Photo credit: AP
- Biden had met Xi on several occasions before becoming China’s most powerful person and claims to understand the man
- Even without the chaos and destruction unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, US-China relations have deteriorated to worrying levels
- We’ve already seen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo take an unusually hard line on China in recent months.
Amid what has been described as the most important presidential election in modern U.S. history, foreign policy experts are taking a close look at Joe Biden’s past statements and actions on China to get a feel of how the Democratic presidential candidate might treat Xi Jinping’s regime if he wins. next month’s election.
Biden is one of the most seasoned foreign policy politicians among American politicians, and during his eight years as Vice President under the Obama administration, Xi became President of China, propelling the Middle Kingdom towards a more aggressive diplomatic and military posture.
As vice president, Biden had met Xi on several occasions before becoming China’s most powerful person – and claims to understand the man.
But that was then.
Even without the chaos and destruction unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, US-Chinese relations have deteriorated to worrying levels since Biden left the US government in 2017. Washington and Beijing have led a trade war; Xi canceled Hong Kong’s democratic rights; and the Chinese military has made extremely risky moves everywhere from Ladakh to seas near Taiwan and Japan.
Five years ago, it was common for China’s observers in the West to speak admirably about China’s massive economic progress and express optimism about its “peaceful rise” into a new world order.
That optimism has gone up in smoke, and the economic devastation in the West caused by the pandemic – when China appears to have done relatively better – has only hardened positions in America and Western Europe against the Communist Party government. And it’s not just governments. Confidence that China would do the right thing has waned among residents of all major developed economies, a recent Pew survey found.
China and the next presidency
If the past two decades have been spent cautiously welcoming China into the Western-dominated, rule-based world order, historians of the future might view 2020 as the year when an alarmed West began to take sides. measures to contain Beijing. The question is: is it already too late?
A Biden or Trump presidency will have to spend much of its initial energy and political capital to deal with the continuing mess of the COVID-19 pandemic and job losses in the country. In such a situation, the new president could try to consolidate his support at home by attacking bad foreign players – including China.
Tech wars with big Chinese companies like Huawei and the owners of TikTok ByteDance amid concerns about privacy and data control are not disappearing in a hurry.
We’ve already seen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo take an unusually hard line on China in recent months. Expect more of the same in Trump’s second term. While Biden may bring a certain degree of sophistication and courtesy to the conduct of foreign policy, the crackdown on Beijing is expected to continue. Biden, if any, is likely to aggressively increase the pressure on human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet and the future of Hong Kong.
Biden has called China’s crackdown on Uyghurs genocidal and has promised to meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a move that will infuriate Beijing as it seeks to impose its own Dalai Lama on Tibetans after the current death.
Taiwan is another flashpoint, and if no one is directly researching the conflict, the danger of an accident triggering a shooting match cannot be ruled out.
America’s closer engagement with India, Japan and Australia under the Quad will almost certainly gain momentum under either administration, although New Delhi may find the US-relationship. Indians a little more difficult under a Biden-Harris administration for other reasons.
Could we also, finally, be on the threshold of a military alliance between India and the United States? Some defense experts in India are calling for such an alliance, but it is still too early to tell.
However, it is safe to conclude that when it comes to foreign policy challenges, China will be at the forefront in the mind of the next US president.
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