Biden China Tracker

by Malcolm Riddell

'The Best Explanation of Biden’s Economic Thinking I’ve Heard'

The New York Times

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Ezra Klein | The New York Times
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April 9, 2021
'The Best Explanation of Biden’s Economic Thinking I’ve Heard'
'The Best Explanation of Biden’s Economic Thinking I’ve Heard'
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Ezra Klein | The New York Times

BIG IDEA | ‘When President Biden’s thinking about the infrastructure investments necessary, a lot of it is in contraposition to what he is seeing China doing in terms of strategic investments.’
Here are the comments by Brian Deese about China from a very long podcast interview. As with the Blinken interview, above, it lays out in some detail the principles underlying Biden economic policy. Unlike Mr. Ignatius piece, here we have the full transcript. The China portion is below, but the whole interview is well worth reading.

‘Brian Deese is the director of the National Economic Council, the nerve center that coordinates economic policy across the executive branch.

  • ‘He led the auto bailout in the Obama administration and then turned to climate, first in the Obama White House and then at BlackRock.
  • ‘When President Biden brought him on to run the N.E.C., it was a message: In the Biden administration, all economics was going to be climate economics.

Ezra Klein: ‘How about economically? What have you changed your mind on economically since 2009?

Brian Deese: A couple of things.

  • 1: ‘The impact of climate change.’
  • 2: ‘Our economy is becoming more unequal.’

No. 3: ‘And the last piece is, the global economic situation has changed.’

  • ‘China is in a very different place than it was a decade ago.’
  • ‘We are in a different place vis-à-vis our international competitors.’

‘And my openness to more targeted efforts to try to build domestic industrial strength — the things that people in prior eras would demean or mock as industrial policy — has increased, because I think we are not operating on a level playing field.’

‘There’s not a market-based solution to try to address some of the big weaknesses that we’re seeing open up in our economy when we’re dealing with competitors like China that are not operating on market-based terms.’

  • 'And that’s, for me at least, a change in perspective from where I was a decade ago.’

Ezra Klein: ‘I expected the focus on climate in this plan. I did not expect the focus on China in the framing and even policy design of this plan. So tell me more about why your thinking, the administration’s thinking, has changed on this since ’09.’

Brian Deese: ‘A lot of this comes directly from how the president is thinking about the current moment and the direction that he’s providing to us.’

'When he’s thinking about the infrastructure investments necessary, a lot of it is in contraposition to what he is seeing China doing in terms of strategic investments.’

  • ‘China has gotten high-speed rail right, where the United States has not.'
  • 'China is increasing its strategic R. and D. as a share of its economy in a way that we have let deteriorate.’

‘We’ve lived through a decade where China has been meticulously thinking about making those investments, marshaling those investments — not all successful but all with a deliberate focus on trying to build its own industrial base and its own intellectual and innovation base.’

  • ‘And we have, for the better part of a decade, ignored or derogated those levers.'
  • ‘So whatever argument there was for making those investments a decade ago is more pertinent now.’

‘But I think the second element of it is that in the wake of the last four years among our allies and among our global counterparts, there is a big question about, can the United States deliver for its own citizens? Can the United States competently govern and invest in things that are obviously beneficial to its own welfare, its economic strength, its economic resilience?’

‘Because the world has watched now for a couple of years where the United States operated in a way that was very difficult for our international counterparts to fathom.’

  • ‘That is really the dominant question.’

‘I think now more than any time in modern history, the world is watching U.S. domestic policy.’

  • ‘This question of whether or not the rescue plan would pass was a top question at the G7. And I think that that reflects the fact that the world is asking this question: If the U.S. is going to lead again internationally on an issue like climate change or an issue like global health and pandemic response, first and foremost, the question is, can the U.S. get its house in order?’
  • ‘And that question is inevitably framed vis-à-vis China.’

Ezra Klein: ‘We don’t think too much about how much the U.K. or Germany or Malaysia or Brazil are spending on R. and D. We don’t think that much about the strategic investments they’re making. Why frame things in the context of China?’

Brian Deese: ‘They are the ascendant economic and military power in the world.’

  • ‘And so for geopolitical and economic reasons, their economic strength and their national security strength will loom larger than others. I think that that’s No. 1.’

‘No. 2 is, because of the investments that they have made, they’ve positioned themselves in a number of critical areas to our global economy and to supply chains as a critical actor.’

  • ‘As we think about the competitive dynamics with China, we need to ask ourselves a more serious set of questions about our own vulnerability.’

‘But it’s not just China. This isn’t just a great power dynamic between the U.S. and China.’

  • ‘It’s also that this pandemic has exposed for us in the U.S. the vulnerability of our economy and our supply chains to an unrestrained globalized economy, where the supply chain vulnerabilities often are connected to China but are connected in very complicated ways.’

‘The semiconductor shortage we have in the United States today is a complicated story that involves lots of countries and lots of elements of the supply chain and where your second-tier supplier sites are in Europe, even if the ultimate place where the wafer is being manufactured is in Asia.’

  • ‘That’s a reality of the global economy, but those realities are creating vulnerabilities for the U.S. economy that I think have been more difficult to see or at least people haven’t focused as much on them until something like this pandemic happens and exposes us so viscerally.’

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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

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Malcolm Riddell
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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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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

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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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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

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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

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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

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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