Biden China Tracker

'What does Biden’s first 100 days tell us about his approach to China?'
'What does Biden’s first 100 days tell us about his approach to China?'
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Biden’s First 100 Days

5

April 26, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘What we have learned from the first 100 days is that we are likely to have both a confrontational and competitive relationship with China, similar to Trump’s policy but with some important nuances.’

‘What we have learned from the first 100 days is that we are likely to have both a confrontational and competitive relationship with China, similar to Trump’s policy but with some important nuances.’

‘Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that there are three types of issue areas when it comes to China, ones where we will:’

  1. ‘confront China,’
  2. ‘compete, and’
  3. ‘cooperate on the basis of common interests.’

‘In the first 100 days the emphasis has been on confrontation, with competition also being prominent.’

  • Biden’s language has been more about seeing China as a competitor than as treating China as an adversary.’
  • ‘There is little evidence of cooperation, the one exception being Xi Jinping’s participation in Biden’s virtual climate summit.’

1 | ‘Confrontation’

‘The Biden team was in no hurry to deal with China, waiting a long time to schedule a first phone call between the presidents or to have any high-level meetings.’

‘Secretary Blinken met with his counterpart, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, in Alaska.’

  • ‘The initial frosty exchange between Secretary Blinken and State Councilor Yang Jiechi made it clear that there would be no re-set in U.S.-China relations. ‘
  • ‘But, one important nuance is that the Biden team has discontinued the demonization of the Chinese Communist Party and the implied calls for regime change.’

‘On the security side, so far the Biden administration has maintained and even stepped up enhanced engagement with Taiwan.’

2 | ‘Competition’

‘A third area of continuity is in the economic realm.’

‘Candidate Biden criticized Trump’s tariffs aimed at China as a poorly targeted instrument that hurts the American economy (a Federal Reserve study found that they cost us more than 100,000 jobs).’

  • ‘Nevertheless, the new administration is leaving the tariffs in place for the moment, as well as the “Phase 1” trade deal in which China agreed to make large purchases of specific American products.’
  • ‘United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai has indicated a willingness to negotiate with China.’

‘Technology has been emphasized by the new administration as an area of competition with China.’

  • ‘The administration is proposing ambitious spending on infrastructure, broadly defined to include more funds for R&D and targeting of particular technologies, defending in Congress as needed to compete with China and to prevent China from dominating the technologies of the future.’
  • ‘These efforts to increase innovation in the U.S. are complemented by various efforts to limit diffusion of technology to China via export and investment restrictions.  These policies started under Trump and have been modestly expanded under Biden.'
  • ‘Treasury and Commerce Departments are reviewing these sanctions and there may be some modest fine-tuning once the reviews are over.’

3 | ‘Cooperation’

‘The only real area of cooperation between China and the U.S. so far is that President Xi Jinping was one of the dozens of heads of state who participated in Biden’s virtual climate summit on April 22.’

‘President Biden has emphasized rebuilding partnerships with allies in order to counter China.’

  • ‘The allies welcome the return of the U.S. to multilateralism, but most of them are not interested in a new Cold War.’
  • ‘Our allies have deeper trade and investment relations with China than we do; and, in fact, since Biden’s election the EU, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and ASEAN have all signed new economic agreements with China.’
  • ‘So there is some contradiction between the U.S. confronting China and working multilaterally, so it is likely that over time Biden’s China policy will have to become either less confrontational or more unilateral.’

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