New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman received a very clear response: “I’m not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to tariffs.”
The entity in question — China. A growing super-power and a direct competitor to the United States.
Biden and China: Unclear waters
This recent statement by President-elect Joe Biden has given us insight into the immediate future of the US-China policy but leaves much to be desired in terms of the future. Joe Biden has not spoken much of his plans on China in his presidential campaign, which has left many to speculate whether the Trump-era “hard on China” stance will remain.
Allegations of ties with China in the Biden family have made conversation on the matter all that more difficult, as a sentiment that Biden would “go soft” on China has brewed in certain political communities. As for Biden’s history with China, he himself was a supporter of integrating the Chinese nation into the global marketplace in the early 1990s, along with a generally bipartisan effort.
The lack of clarity in the situation is not helped by recent incongruencies in Biden’s presidential campaign. Biden remarked during a campaign event in Iowa that China “is not competition for us.” Leading many to believe that Biden would shift attention in foreign policy away from the CCP.
However, during the tenth Democratic debate in Charleston, North Carolina, Biden commented on human rights violations in China towards the Uyghur minority by calling Xi Jinping, (general secretary of the Chinese communist party) a “thug.”
So, if we are to assume that Biden’s most recent statements towards China are representative of his opinion, we can infer that Biden is aware of the many issues the Chinese Communist Party has come under criticism for.
His most recent statement alludes to a continuation of Trump’s China policy, although it is not certain whether this will be a temporary or permanent fact of his administration.
What is the problem with China?
The Chinese Communist Party has been criticized for many actions it has taken in the past, and is taking right now as we speak — particularly its abuse of totalitarian measures, lack of democracy, extensive human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the Hong Kong Extradition Bill, among others.
Trump’s harsh measures on China, such as removing Hong Kong’s special status in response to the extradition bill, were in part influenced by such events.
As stated earlier, the problem with Biden’s China policy is not the potential of it being too harsh or too lax, but the uncertainty of its true nature. Opinions and sentiments change, and as we have seen Biden pledge to restore relationships with foreign US allies, the possibility of a relaxation of China policy is anything but zero.
It is comforting to those who seek a more democratic world that Biden has pledged to “restore” America’s position as a global leader of democracy, but if the China policy in the 90s and 2000s has taught us anything, it is that sometimes harsher actions must be taken towards those who refuse to open the government to the people.
Democracy is in constant peril worldwide, and the pro-democracy movements of 2019 and 2020 in Thailand, Hong Kong and Belarus are prime examples of this. A clamor for reform is always present somewhere, and the United States should actively acknowledge and support these movements regardless of their distance from the mainland, or their size. All in all, a world of democracy benefits everyone.
China has shown the world that it is ready to take the global stage and emerge as a superpower. Its recent moon landing has shown that it can respond to the American Artemis program, and will do so. Its economy is solid and will continue to grow.
Why then, shouldn’t such a promising nation be pushed towards opening its political walls to the people, and instituting a more democratic system to reform its troubled and controversial system?
Do we truly want to see a second cold war as a result of our inactivity towards China, where two nations with polar opposite ideologies race to one-up the other?
Should we not focus our efforts on establishing a more democratic China?
Biden, as President of the United States of America, has the responsibility of informing the public what his stance on China is, and how he will fulfill his foreign policy goals.
It is still early in Biden’s presidency, so everything is subject to change. As he begins to step into the role of President of the United States, we should demand transparency and clarity. For in our ever-changing present, we must make our intentions clear — for the benefit and sanity of everyone involved.