President Joe Biden inherited the bipartisan consensus in Washington that China will be America’s great strategic challenge for decades to come, as well as the growing recognition that Western trade policy has helped the Communist Party of China consolidate its authoritarian regime and its influence on projects.
The tone of the 2020 presidential election was skeptical of China, with Biden forced to pledge a hard line in Beijing to push back warnings from President Donald Trump and his allies that Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches would result in widespread surrender to the CCP.
Beijing certainly hoped so, and since Trump’s defeat has been pushing for a reset of ties with the White House after four years of combative relations under the previous president. On Monday, for example, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it was time for the two sides to resume constructive dialogue.
But Wang also accused the United States of “sullying” the CCP and interfering in Chinese internal affairs – that is, the US condemnation of human rights violations from Beijing to Xinjiang, Hong Kong, in Tibet and elsewhere. Wang also said that Washington must stop “knowing” Taiwan to help it assert its independence.
Despite all the GOP’s warnings, the Biden administration largely kept the Trump-era pressure on Beijing. Earlier this month, Biden ordered a military review to ensure the Pentagon is fully prepared to deal with Chinese threats.
The administration has also maintained staunch opposition to China’s internal human rights abuses and U.S. support for the maintenance of Taiwanese independence, backing the latter through freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
State Department spokesman Ned Price responded to Wang’s allegations on Monday, dismissing his complaints as a “continuing pattern of Beijing’s tendency to avoid blame for its predatory economic practices, lack of transparency, its failure to respect its international agreements and its repression of universal human rights. “
“We will continue to defend our democratic values when human rights are violated in Xinjiang, Tibet or elsewhere in China, or when autonomy is trampled on in Hong Kong,” Price added, stressing that the administration would address its concerns. relations with Beijing. “Through the prism of competition from a position of strength”.
Biden’s foreign policy rests on multilateralism and long-standing American alliances – two things Trump’s critics have said the former president caused lasting damage through his “America First” nationalist agenda. Regarding China, Iran, climate change and other pressing issues, the administration’s first steps have been consultations with allies.
This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with counterparts from India, Japan and Australia, who together form the Quad – the quadrilateral security dialogue group first established in 2007 but relaunched under Trump in 2017.
“We see the Quad as having essential momentum and significant potential, so we will build on it by deepening cooperation in areas of traditional interest – which includes maritime security,” said Price. He added that the group will work together on “defining the challenges and even the opportunities of our time,” including the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and “democratic resilience.”
The simmering technological conflict between the United States and China was a common thread in Trump’s struggle with the CCP. Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has become synonymous with Western concerns about Chinese-owned businesses, and the Trump administration has pushed its allies – with limited success – to block the business of nascent 5G networks, citing security risks .
Price suggested that the Biden administration would continue Trump’s offensive on Huawei, but said Biden would be more measured in pressuring U.S. allies to respect Chinese technology.
Germany has yet to block Huawei from its networks, although Berlin has introduced new legislation aimed at giving its competitors a head start.
“We know that, especially when it comes to countries with which we have an alliance or a close partnership – and of course, this includes Germany – that we have to face this challenge together: China’s abuses, the China’s predatory practices, China’s export of the tools it uses. to promote its brand of techno-authoritarianism, ”Price said on Monday.“ This is something that we are working very closely with our partners. and allies, and that includes Germany. “
“The stakes in securing these networks could not be higher,” added Price. “5G is transformative, it will affect all aspects of our lives, including critical infrastructure, and that’s something that, of course, we discuss a lot with our partners and allies.”
People are pictured next to a flag hung for the recent Chinese New Year holiday, also known as the Spring Festival, in a residential area on February 19, 2021 in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images / Getty
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