As I write this, President Joe Biden is in Europe at the beginning of his eight-day schedule of meetings with the G7 (with Australia, India, and South Korea attending as guests of British PM Boris Johnson), NATO, and Vladimir Putin, among others.
- In his WAPO op-ed published just before his trip, Mr. Biden wrote:
‘This is a defining question of our time:’
- ‘Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world?’
- ‘Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries?’
‘I believe the answer is yes.’
- ‘And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.’
For Mr. Biden, the primary – if not the primary adversary – is China.
- As Thomas Wright of Brookings writes:
‘Two years ago, Biden spoke about why he thought reports of China’s strength were overstated, and made a remark that Republicans hammered him for during the 2020 campaign:’
- ‘ “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.” ’
- ‘Now he worries that they are competition for America, and not only that—they might win.’
‘In Biden’s view, the United States and other democracies are in a competition with China and other autocracies.’
- ‘This belief underpins the Biden doctrine.’
The Biden Doctrine?
- Wright has, I believe, described the core of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy and the opportunity:
‘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.’
‘Some presidents never find a doctrine. Biden has one.’
- ‘In his view, the United States is in a competition of governance systems with China.’
‘His response is not about spreading democracy at gunpoint or even democracy promotion per se, but about showing that democracy can deliver—at home and abroad.’
- ‘The question now is whether Biden can bring his administration, the country, and America’s allies along to embed this doctrine in U.S. foreign policy.’
A big question, indeed.
- In my view, one of the best ways Mr. Biden can implement his Doctrine is through supporting the establishment of the ‘Democratic-10’ or ‘D-10’: The G7 plus the European Union, Australia, and South Korea.
I have waited more than a year – ever since Boris Johnson began to press the concept last May – to spotlight it in the China Macro Reporter.
- ‘Boris Johnson’s plan to host an expanded Group of Seven summit in June is worrying some other members who fear the U.K. may be trying to reshape the forum of wealthy nations via the back door.
- ‘The British prime minister has invited South Korea, India and Australia as guests to this year’s meeting as he tries to establish a so-called D-10 coalition of democracies to counter China and other authoritarian states.
- ‘Johnson wants to champion global action and democratic values, and project the U.K. as a force for good after leaving the European Union,’ wrote The Print.
Fortunately, just in time for this issue and the G7, the Atlantic Council has summed up the D-10 in a 30-page proposal, 'From the G7 to a D-10: Strengthening democratic cooperation for today's challenges.'
- The report states:
‘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.’
- ‘The D-10 is not intended as a security alliance or an alternative to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, nor is it directed at confronting or containing China or any other nation.’
‘Rather, it 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.’
- ‘The overarching strategic challenge facing the United States and other democracies is whether they can preserve a rules-based democratic order that reflects these values, or “whether the world will slip back toward a state in which illiberal regimes and coercive practices are ascendant.” ’
This seems perfectly in sync with Dr. Wright’s assessment:
- ‘Those who have concerns with his doctrine ignore an important geopolitical development that Biden has put his finger on.’
- ‘The old rules-based international order has come apart, and two broad constellations of countries are emerging in its place—one consisting of democracies, the other autocracies.’
And if that is right (and I think it is), the faster we align the democracies in a formal structure – a D-10 – the better the chances are that democracy will prevail.
As mentioned, Mr. Biden will be meeting with NATO leaders (many the same as the G7), so I close this issue with a description of the challenges China poses to NATO and the EU.
- If NATO leaders find it as sobering as I do, Mr. Biden’s job of persuading NATO to join with the U.S. in engaging China should markedly easier.