Biden China Tracker

by Malcolm Riddell

Biden’s First 100 Days
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Biden China Policy: What We Know at the 100 Day Mark

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Malcolm Riddell
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Founder of CHINADebate

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April 29, 2021
Biden China Policy: What We Know at the 100 Day Mark
Biden China Policy: What We Know at the 100 Day Mark
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Biden’s First 100 Days

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Biden’s 100th day

Friday, April 30, marks 100 days of the Biden Presidency.

  • On Thursday, President Biden gave a speech to a Joint Session of Congress that summed up many of policies – including those on China - as he nears the 100-day mark.
  • And several major media outlets and think tanks are getting an early start on their analyses.

Here's Senator Lindsey Graham: "I'm not very impressed with the first 100 days.”

  • ‘ "He's been a disaster on foreign policy.” ’
  • ‘ “Russia and China are already pushing him around, so I'm very worried." ’

The Chinese view is a bit more measured. The Chinese Communist Party-backed Global Times writes (in both its English- and Chinese-language editions):

  • ‘It will soon be the 100th day since Joe Biden took office.’
  • ‘Some have the reason to feel greatly disappointed about him while others think he is barely satisfactory.’

Paul Haenle of Carnegie-Tsinghua takes a bit of wait-and-see position:

  • ‘The Biden administration is using its first one hundred days to consolidate its leverage and try to establish the terms of prolonged strategic competition with China.’

David Dollar of Brookings goes a little further.

  • ‘In the first 100 days the emphasis has been on confrontation, with competition also being prominent.’

From the left, right, and China, the consensus seems to be that Biden is following Trump China policy:

  • Global Times: ‘Biden administration's China strategic definition is apparently a continuation of the Trump administration's perception of China. In the past 100 days, strategic competition between the US and China has not diminished.
  • Dollar: ‘When it comes to China, President Biden is largely continuing Donald Trump’s approach.’
  • Haenle: ‘Joe Biden and his administration’s early actions and statements indicate little desire to revert to a policy of engagement with China. The administration, much like the one before it, views China as a “strategic competitor” and is intent on implementing policies to better compete with Beijing.’

But Mr. Biden’s continuing Trump China policy could be a problem.

  • ‘The most important question that US President Joe Biden’s administration needs to ask in formulating its China policy is a simple one:’

‘Was Donald Trump right or wrong on China?,’ says Kishore Mahbubani in his essay, ‘Was Trump Right or Wrong on China? Biden’s Answer Will Shape the Future,’

  • ‘Right now, the overwhelming consensus in Washington is that even if he was wrong on everything else, Trump was right on China.’
  • ‘There is therefore a real danger that the Biden administration will retain many elements of Trump’s policies toward China.’
  • ‘If so, America is heading toward a disaster.’

Mr. Mahbubani is no doubt right.

  • But even though Mr. Biden is for now continuing much of Mr. Trump’s China policy, the nuances (explained in several posts below) make the execution and impact vastly difference.

And, we have to keep into perspective: 100 days is just 100 days.

  • And Mr. Biden has never explicitly said which Trump policies on China he will continue or abandon – if any.
  • Or even articulated his own comprehensive China policy.

‘Despite his stated desire to change the U.S. approach toward Beijing, Biden has been hesitant to quickly undo several of his predecessor’s China policies,’ writes Dr. Haenle.

  • ‘Instead, he has opted to conduct thorough strategic reviews within several federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense and the U.S. Trade Representative.’
  • Until these are done, digested and acted on , we are getting ahead of ourselves in forming hard conclusions about China policy going forward.

‘The president is setting the table for a series of negotiations that allow for competition, confrontation, and cooperation while minimizing the risk of conflict,’ writes Dr. Haenle.

  • Setting the table is not eating the meal.

In any case, as Mr. Biden hits and exceeds the 100-day mark, more comments and analyses will flow in, and Biden China policy (and all his other policies to boot) will generate the same Rashomon-effect.

  • In reading any of these, follow your Mother’s advice: Consider the source.

To get you started, today’s issue has posts, including those by Drs. Dollar and Haenle, that explain:

  • What Mr. Biden had to say about China in his speech to Congress, and what the Chinese said in reaction, and
  • What we can learn about Biden China policy after 100 days.

CHINADebate

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

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Biden Doctrine
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The Biden Doctrine and Its Discontents

President Biden has framed China as a threat both to the U.S. and the liberal world order.
7/15/2021

The Economist

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Biden Doctrine
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'What's Wrong with Biden’s new China doctrine'

‘Mr Biden’s aides invariably start any discussion of China strategy with the need to restore American greatness after decades of decline.’
7/15/2021

The Economist

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Biden Doctrine
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Part 2 | Joe Biden is determined that China should not displace America

‘Mr Biden’s aides invariably start any discussion of China strategy with the need to restore American greatness after decades of decline.’
7/15/2021

The Economist

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Biden Doctrine
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Part 1 | 'Joe Biden is determined that China should not displace America'

‘Biden’s emerging China strategy, while still protean, sounds of a kind with Mr Doshi’s prescription for “blunting and building”.’
7/15/2021

Center for Strategic and International Studies

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Pierre Morcos | Center for Strategic and International Studies
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G7 to D10
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'NATO & China's Challenges to Europe'

‘Even though China does not pose a direct military threat to NATO, contrary to Russia or terrorist groups, Beijing’s growing economic influence and diplomatic assertiveness in Europe coupled with its growing military relationship with Russia do have major implications for the transatlantic economy as well as its security.’
6/9/2021

CHINADebate

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

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G7 to D10
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Biden Worries China Might Win

‘Biden has taken the vital first step of correctly diagnosing the strategic challenge facing the country.’ ‘Like Harry Truman at the start of the Cold War and George H. W. Bush at its end, the president now has an opportunity to create a framework for a new era.’
6/9/2021

The Washington Post

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Joe Biden | President of the United States
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G7 to D10
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Joe Biden: 'My trip to Europe is about America rallying the world’s democracies'

‘This is a defining question of our time: Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world?’
6/9/2021

The Atlantic

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Thomas Wright | Brookings
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G7 to D10
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'Joe Biden Worries That China Might Win'

‘Biden worries that China is in competition for America, and not only that—they might win. This belief underpins the Biden doctrine.’
6/9/2021

The Atlantic Council

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G7 to D10
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'From the G7 to a D-10: Strengthening democratic cooperation for today's challenges'

‘A “Democratic-10” or “D-10” is aimed at rallying the world’s most powerful democracies around a common cause— advancing a rules-based democratic order based on shared values and common interests.’
6/9/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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Postscript: China Doubts U.S. Allies Support

'Chinese leadership is also cynical about the effectiveness of a U.S.-led Cold War-style bloc.’
5/30/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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China's ‘Anti-Hegemonist Bloc’

‘To counter U.S. coalition building, China has enhanced its diplomatic, economic, and military relationship with both Russia and Iran in recent months, resulting in the closest ties these countries have had in the post-Cold War era.’
5/30/2021

CHINADebate

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

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Biden’s China strategy
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What China Thinks About Biden's China Policy

And that is what makes Cheng Li’s ‘Biden’s China strategy: Coalition-driven competition or Cold War-style confrontation?' so valuable. Cheng has decades of close relationships with China’s leaders and high officials. They trust him not to attribute their comments and so speak freely and honestly to him. Cheng is the person I rely on most to convey China’s positions.
5/30/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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'Final Thoughts'

'Just as Brzezinski foresaw the two new contending blocs –– requiring greater “geostrategic skill” –– that are forming today, Kissinger has emphasized the unprecedented dangers that AI could introduce into a divided world.’
5/30/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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Worse for China than Trump

‘Many Chinese now believe that the Biden administration could be more detrimental to U.S.-China relations than the Trump administration.’
5/30/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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The Trump Legacy

‘From Beijing’s perspective, the hawkish approach to China in the final year of the Trump administration revealed that the Trump team sought to defeat and destroy China in much the same way that the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War.’
5/30/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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'Biden’s China strategy: Coalition-driven competition or Cold War-style confrontation?'

‘Senior officials on the foreign policy team have frequently emphasized three “C” words: competition, cooperation, and confrontation.’
5/30/2021

Brookings

CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings

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Biden’s China strategy
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Biden’s ‘Anti-China Bloc’

‘Throughout President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, his administration has largely continued the Trump administration’s hawkish approach toward China.’ ‘President Biden has also made international coalition building to confront the growing power and influence of China his primary foreign policy initiative.’ ‘Chinese leaders and the public are not convinced by the statements recently made by President Biden that these U.S.-led alliances are “not anti-Chinese” and that the United States is “not looking for confrontation” with China.’
5/30/2021

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC

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Wang Wenbin | Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
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Biden’s First 100 Days
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'China's Response to Biden's Speech'

‘It is natural for the two sides to have competition in some fields, but we should advocate fair competition, like competing with each other for excellence in a racing field, not beating each other on a wrestling arena.’
4/29/2021