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Biden in Short Threes while Administration Rethinks China Relations

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WASHINGTON Biden administration officials have sought to project a tough line on China in their first weeks in office, describing authoritarian government as an economic and security challenge for the United States that requires a much more strategic and calculated approach. than that of the Trump administration.

They have also tried to send a message: While the administration will be filled with many familiar faces from the Obama administration, China’s policy will not return to what it was a decade ago.

These early efforts have made no secret of the great challenge President Biden faces in trying to formulate a strategy for dealing with China at a time when any relationship with Beijing is treated as completely toxic in Washington. Political opponents, including Republican lawmakers, have already begun to scrutinize statements by Mr Bidens’s advisers, willing to give up any attempt to retract President Donald J. Trumps’ sentences, including tariffs and technology export bans. .

Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, has placed a holder on the confirmation of Gina Raimondo, Mr. Bidens nominated for trade secretary, delaying a vote on her confirmation, on the rejection of the clear commitment to keep the Chinese telecom company Huawei on a national security blacklist. Some Republican lawmakers have also criticized Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Mr. Bidens for being the UN ambassador, for giving a speech at a Confucius Institute, an organization that some have described as spreading Chinese propaganda and creating a rosy picture of the activities of Chinas in Africa.

Some Republicans, including Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, also issued statements last week criticizing a move by the Biden administration to withdraw a proposed rule during the Trump administration that would require universities to disclose their financial ties to Confucius Institutes, organizations set up to teach Chinese language and culture in American schools.

The Biden administration will be in a very short chain about doing anything perceived to give China a break, said Wendy Cutler, a vice president at the Asian Society Policy Institute and a former U.S. trade negotiator. .

Mr Trumps supporters hail him with a far more aggressive approach than his predecessors to policing China, including clearing out many rarely used policy tools. This includes imposing heavy tariffs on Chinese goods, restricting Beijing’s entry into sensitive US technology exports, imposing sanctions on Chinese officials and companies for human rights violations, and securing economic concessions from China as part of a trade agreement.

But Mr Trumps critics, including many in the Biden administration, say his influx of executive orders and other actions were inconsistent and fragmented, and often more symbolic than effective.

Even as Mr Trump issued harsh sentences on several fronts, he also extended a lifeline to Chinese telecom company ZTE, delayed sanctions over human rights abuses in the Chinas Xinjiang region and publicly flattered President Xi China’s Jinping while seeking his trade deal. Many of the executive actions Mr. Trump took against China were left incomplete, or were filled with potholes.

And his policies may have worsened American competition in some areas, according to a report published Wednesday by consulting firm Rhodium Group and the American Chamber of Commerce Chinese Center. The report found huge costs from the type of economic downturn that Mr. Trump pursued, including an annual loss of $ 190 billion in U.S. economic output by 2025 if all U.S.-China trade were subject to the 25 percent tariff type that Mr. Trump Trump placed $ 250 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Daniel Rosen, a founding partner at Rhodium Group, said the Biden administration should consider more than politics or ideology when falsifying China’s policy, including carefully weighing the cost of its access to the industry.

Undoubtedly politics is king here at the moment, with no one in leadership or aspiring leadership that wants not to go out with what is tough with China, he said. We would not serve American interests if we did not consider commercial interests and national security interests at the same time.

The Biden administration has argued that by being more strategic in the way it addresses China, it will ultimately be more effective than the Trump administration. It has set an ambitious task as it seems to not only hit China for what it sees as unfair trade practices but also develop a national strategy that helps create America’s economic position to better counter Chinese competition.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council in late January, Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, said the United States should first renew the fundamental foundations of our democracy by addressing issues such as economic and racial inequality, as well as investing in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. quantum computing and clean energy.

Mr Biden has also stressed the importance of working with allies and international institutions to impose a tougher global stance, so companies do not circumvent strict US rules by taking up their offshore operations.

Mr Biden held his first call with Mr Xi on February 10, in which he spoke about maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific and shared concerns about Beijing’s economic and human rights practices. , according to in a White House reading.

In a town hall-style forum broadcast by CNN on Tuesday evening, Mr. Biden, who knows Mr. Xi well from meetings during the Obama administration, said he had taken a tough stance on human rights and other issues during their two-hour call.

There will be consequences for China, and he knows it, Mr Biden said. What I am doing is making it clear that we, in fact, will continue to reaffirm our role as human rights spokespersons at the UN and other agencies that have an impact on their stance.

Mr Biden has begun filling his cabinet with officials with deep experience with China. Katherine Tai, the Biden administration nominee for trade representative, was in charge of litigation against China at the World Trade Organization during the Obama administration and has vowed to take a tough line on enforcing U.S. trade rules.

Mr Bidens’ top foreign policy advisers have also backed critical views of China’s practices, although many see potential for co-operation on issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. This includes Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Sullivan and Kurt Campbell, tsar of the National Security Council in Asia.

Mrs. Raimondo, nominated for trade secretary, will also have competence in economic relations with China, especially those related to technology. While she had harsh words about China during her confirmation hearing, her refusal to commit to keeping Huawei on a government blacklist drew criticism from Republican lawmakers like Mr. Cruz.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who is expected to play a key role in relations with China, took a guilty tone at her confirmation hearing last month, vowing to use America’s full set of tools to fight illegal, unfair and abusive practices. She also criticized China’s practices of stealing intellectual property and subsidizing state-owned enterprises, but said it did not consider Mr Trumps’ tariffs to be the proper focus of trade policy.

The new administration has provided some concrete details on how it will implement its strategy, including whether to implement it. many executive orders related to China Mr. Trump introduced, as new restrictions on investment in Chinese companies related to the military and bans on Chinese-owned applications, such as TikTok, WeChat and Alipay. Instead, the administration has said it will conduct a comprehensive review of Mr Trumps tariffs, export controls and other restrictions before making decisions.

Another uncertainty is how Mr Biden and his team will handle Mr Trumps’ initial trade deal with China given that Beijing continues to not live up to its promise to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in US products. The administration may be faced with the choice of using agreement enforcement mechanisms that include consultation and more tariffs on Chinese products or canceling the agreement altogether.

Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser on Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Biden administration had clear foreign policy goals and a large box of measures available, but had not yet figured out how to combined strategy and tactics.

With regard to US competition with China, there is a much larger conversation that needs to be done, Mr. Kennedy said. Will they be willing to get involved in that conversation and do that thorough analysis and come up with something new? Or will they be afraid of political backlash and pull their fists?

Mr Bidens plans to engage more closely with US allies to put pressure on China it may also be easier said than done.

In an interview in January, shortly before stepping down, Robert Lighthizer, Mr Trumps’ top trade official, noted a recent investment deal the European Union signed with China, against the wishes of the Biden administration, as the first proof that such multilateral cooperation would be difficult.

Chinese officials are already strengthening ties with U.S. allies such as New Zealand and South Korea in an effort to divide and conquer, she said. Cutler.

China has emerged from the early stages of the encouraged pandemic, with its factories and businesses surpassing those in the United States and Europe, where the coronavirus continues to hamper the economy. As Chinese leaders seek to restore relations with Washington after a turbulent period under Mr. Trump, they have continued to make sometimes harsh statements.

In an interview with CBS News on February 7, Mr. Biden said the two countries do not need a conflict. But it will be extreme competition.

I will not do it as Trump did, Mr. Biden added. We would focus on international road rules.

Alan Rappeport contributed to reporting.



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