Biden China Tracker

by Malcolm Riddell

Biden Starts Infrastructure
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President Biden Lays Out His ‘American Jobs’ Plan

Foreign Affairs

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April 2, 2021
President Biden Lays Out His ‘American Jobs’ Plan
President Biden Lays Out His ‘American Jobs’ Plan
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Biden Starts Infrastructure

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‘It has become a cliché in U.S. policy circles that the best China policy is to invest in core U.S. capabilities: education, infrastructure, and research and development,’ writes Evan Medeiros of Georgetown University in ‘How to Craft a Durable China Strategy,’ in Foreign Affairs. (The entire analysis is excellent and well worth reading.)

  • ‘Congress, however, largely lacks the political will and unity to do so.’
  • ‘As a result, many, including Biden, are calling for a new moon landing–like program to galvanize support for such investments.’

‘Competing with Beijing could be that mission, but generating widespread political support for that goal may require framing China as a global threat akin to the Soviet Union.’

  • ‘In other words, the very arguments needed to generate such investments may also require turning China into an implacable foe.’
  • ‘The United States would therefore get the investment needed to compete but at the cost of generating enduring confrontation.’

And you might think President Biden did just that when he introduced his $2.25 trillion ‘America Jobs Plan’ when you read headlines like this from Axios:

  • ‘Biden builds infrastructure pitch around China challenge.’

More accurate however is Matthew Choi’s assessment in Politico, ‘Biden sells his infrastructure package,’ where he writes:

  • ‘Biden threw a bone to the China hawks, portraying infrastructure as a test of America’s ability to prove its mettle versus the communist state and show it can deliver on both infrastructure and combating climate change.'
  • ‘ “That's what competition between America and China and the rest of the world is all about. It's a basic question. Can democracy still deliver for their people?” he asked. “I believe we can.” ’

If however you read Mr. Biden’s statement (and the mind-blowing Fact Sheet outlining the Plan), you see that his overwhelming focus is on the benefits to the American middle class:

  • ‘In fact, it’s the largest American jobs investment since World War Two. It will create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs.’
  • With a tie-in to geopolitics: ‘It will grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interests, and put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.’

Given the difficulties Mr. Biden faces in getting the Plan passed by Congress, he may have erred by not tying more closely to the China challenge.

  • After years of candidate and former President Trump’s drumbeat, the American people are aware the threat China poses.
  • A recent Pew Poll found: ‘Roughly nine-in-ten U.S. adults (89%) consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner.’
  • Most Americans don’t know a lot about ‘Made in China 2025,’ but they do know more generally that China has been rapidly beefing up its capabilities to compete with the U.S.

Mr. Biden may have been trying to avoid, as Dr. Meideiros suggests, branding China ‘an implacable foe,’ thereby giving himself some policy breathing room, especially for potential areas of cooperation, like climate change.

  • But by not so doing, even a bit, he also missed an opportunity to rally Americans to support his plan for more than just the otherwise excellent reasons he lays out: The Plan ‘builds a fair economy that gives everybody a chance to succeed, and it’s going to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world.’

The China challenge is clearly one of the main causes for Mr. Biden’s urgency in realizing the Plan.

  • By not explaining more directly both the challenge and how the Plan aims to meet it, Mr. Biden missed an opportunity – and maybe passage of the Plan itself.

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CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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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

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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

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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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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

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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

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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