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'Biden Has a Summit With Xi, but No Strategy for China'

'Biden Has a Summit With Xi, but No Strategy for China''Biden Has a Summit With Xi, but No Strategy for China'
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Interview
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Malcolm Riddell

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Founder of CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder of CHINADebate
Interview

Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder of CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder of CHINADebate

BIG IDEA | ‘Neither Taiwan nor strategic arms are a hot campaign topic, and China is not yet at the forefront of public consciousness. To ensure America’s eventual strategy is workable, political leaders need to debate the challenges so citizens can appreciate the implications of the choices they will have to make.’

‘America has no China strategy 10 months after President Biden’s inauguration.’

  • ‘Monday’s Zoom meeting between Mr. Biden and Xi Jinping only highlighted that void.’

‘What explains the absence of U.S. direction?’

  • ‘Insufficient presidential engagement? Conflicting advice? Indecision?’’
  • ‘Mr. Biden’s focus on climate change may partly explain the eclipse of national-security planning.’

‘Whatever the reason, there is a pressing need to articulate a China policy.’

  • ‘That’s not only because the White House has to lead a vast U.S. bureaucracy but because the nation faces momentous choices requiring informed public debate.’
  • ‘And China is the anvil on which national security debates will inevitably turn.’

‘China strategy requires addressing core bilateral issues.’

  • ‘Two stand out.’

‘First is the defense of Taiwan, a de facto American ally and important trading partner, an enormously consequential country for Japan, and a key link in the “first island chain,” the geographic defense line between the Chinese mainland and the Pacific Ocean.’

  • ‘But many Americans don’t know Taiwan from Thailand.’
  • ‘To protect Taiwan, not to mention East and Southeast Asia generally, we need animated and sustained U.S. public support.’
  • ‘Mr. Biden didn’t provide it Monday. He simply mouthed longstanding bromides.’

‘Rather than risk a less feckless president after Mr. Biden, Mr. Xi may feel he has three years to act.’

  • ‘How do we deter him during that period?’
  • ‘The question is intricate and dangerous, requiring considerable creativity. Mr. Biden has shown precious little.’

‘Second, China’s expensive buildup of strategic weapons and manifold other military capabilities existentially threatens America as well as allies.’

  • ‘It may determine whether our 75-year-old global nuclear umbrella, and the international stability it provides, will survive or wither away, succeeded by far wider nuclear proliferation.’

‘Whether China learned anything from the Cold War about prudent political management of a large strategic arsenal is unknown, but the signs are worrying. One telling move:’

  • ‘Beijing refuses to engage in serious arms negotiations while rapidly accumulating such assets.’

‘Mr. Biden has so far been unwilling to insist with both Vladimir Putin and Mr. Xi that bilateral Russian-American nuclear deals are relics of the Cold War.’

  • ‘No American strategist should consider limiting U.S. nuclear capabilities in a deal with Russia while allowing China unrestrained growth.’

‘Neither Taiwan nor strategic arms are a hot campaign topic, and China is not yet at the forefront of public consciousness.’

  • ‘Nonetheless, issues reminiscent of China’s 1958 attacks on Quemoy and Matsu and John F. Kennedy’s 1960 drumbeat about a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union could soon again be top of mind.’

‘To ensure America’s eventual strategy is workable, political leaders need to debate the challenges so citizens can appreciate the implications of the choices they will have to make.’

  • ‘If Mr. Biden doesn’t use his Presidency’s bully pulpit to launch that debate, his potential opponents should.’
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THE BIG IDEAS