Joe Biden is signaling that he considers China to be America’s “most serious competitor” in his first foreign policy speech as president.
Biden pledged to “take on directly the challenges posed [to] our prosperity, security and democratic values by our most serious competitor: China.”
“We’ll confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive actions, and push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance,” he continued.
President Biden didn’t miss the opportunity to disparage the previous Trump administration, which was simultaneously tough on China, but kept the U.S. out of new foreign wars.
“We’ll compete from a position of strength, by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost,” Biden said.
Biden’s speech thus presages a departure from the Trump administration’s “America first” agenda that bore fruit domestically, but rankled many career bureaucrats in the foreign service.
The current U.S. president is also reversing his messaging that landed him in hot water during the campaign.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said shortly after announcing his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The Washington Post has an unintentionally humorous account of what may appear on first blush to simply be a rhetorical misstep, a “Bidenism,” if you will:
He argued that Beijing has its hands full dealing with its own domestic and regional problems, such as tensions in the South China Sea — which Biden called the “China Sea” — and the “mountains … in the west.” It was not clear to what mountains or issue Biden was referring.
“They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system,” Biden continued. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”
Biden’s weak statements on China were of concern to many Americans, which was only heightened when his son Hunter Biden’s Chinese business deals came out.
Former President Trump memorably told Biden during one debate that “China ate your lunch.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has echoed the Biden administration’s new, tougher messaging on China.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years is that China’s growing more authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad and Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity and values in significant ways that require a new U.S. approach,” Psaki said.
“We want to approach this with some strategic patience,” she added.
China, however, may not be so patient. It has rejected a framework of global competition.
“Over the past few years, the Trump administration went in a very wrong direction. They regarded China as a ‘strategic competitor’ and even a ‘threat,’ and thus took erroneous actions that interfered in China’s internal affairs and undermined China’s interests,” said Zhao Lijian, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson.
“As two major countries, China and the United States have broad common interests and shoulder special, major responsibilities in safeguarding world peace and stability, and in promoting global development and prosperity,” he said.
“Both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice for both,” he added.
In terms of an objective evaluation of Biden’s domestic policies thus far, beyond the stern messaging, one could say that China is racking up the early wins. The United States is retracting from the global energy market, and signing back up for a Paris Climate Agreement that major polluter China will not be held accountable for abiding by.
Most disturbingly, the totalitarian nation has demonstrably suppressed critical information about COVID-19 during the very origins of the viral pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has reportedly led to over 2 million deaths worldwide, 450,000 of them attributed to the United States. This deadly, inhumane deception is tantamount to biological warfare and the foreign policy literati need to consider it as such.
The Biden administration is striking a stronger chord than expected on China relations. But it needs to back up its tough talk with tougher actions. America needs a coordinated and sophisticated strategic action plan that addresses the Chinese regime’s aggressive, multifaceted targeting of the United States.
It will take more than calling the Chinese our “most serious competitor” to reimagine our relations. The communist regime’s hostile actions have earned them the right to be considered our “main adversary.”