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.