Meet the New China Policy—Same as the Old China Policy?

In his Washington Post column Josh Rogin says that the Biden Administration’s policies with respect to China should be expected to be much like the Trump Administrations’s, just more predictable and with stronger complaints about China’s internal human rights violations:

The Biden administration-in-waiting is sending clear signals about its China approach, which will look very different from President Trump’s — at least on the surface. But at the same time, President-elect Joe Biden’s personnel picks so far portend a strategy that maintains the Trump administration’s core thrust of focusing on competition — not engagement — with Beijing. That should comfort nervous allies even if it doesn’t satisfy hawkish Republicans.

He expands on that a bit:

Biden’s announcement he plans to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser shows he is making a break from the Obama White House’s engagement-focused China policy. There were fears in the region that Susan Rice, who resisted a more competitive strategy when she was national security adviser, might have become America’s top diplomat.

Blinken laid out his thinking on China in a July Hudson Institute event, when he argued that Trump put the United States in a weaker strategic position vis-a-vis China by undermining alliances and waffling on values promotion. Blinken promised to rally allies toward the mission of pushing back on China’s various bad behaviors.

“There is a growing consensus across parties that China poses a series of new challenges and that the status quo was really not sustainable,” he said. “We are in a competition with China, and there’s nothing wrong with competition, if it’s fair.”

I’m not sure how you might consider China’s competition to be fair when it relies on slave labor and its environmental and labor laws aren’t enforced. Or with a country whose policy is so patently zero-sum (we win; you lose) as China’s.

My view has long been that we should be imposing Pigouvian tariffs in the estimated amount of what it would cost China to enforce its own laws plus the estimated cost to U. S. businesses of Chinese hacking and intellectual property theft.

2 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I contrast that with the actual public announcements that while there is competition; the US needs to cooperate with China on global public health; climate change; and nuclear non-proliferation. Not much different from what Obama said in 2016.

    And working with allies sounds great; but the Europeans (Germans) aren’t going to kill their exporters just because Biden does not say mean things. The Philippines (Duterte) still detest Obama’s condemnation of their war against drugs; will Biden swallow his human rights rhetoric for relations with an ally? Or the tariffs; are they going to fight hard for them by neutering the WTO —where allies are unanimous that US needs to revive the WTO even if that drops the tariffs on China?

    A lot of columnists are projecting their thoughts….

  • Grey Shambler Link

    China, of course takes the long view, and American administrations, like the frog in the pan of water, are happy if they don’t kill us, “in my tenure”.
    This isn’t the best but not that different from the way American foreign policy has always operated.
    Trump has shifted the conversation, and we can all be grateful for that.
    The Biden crew will take the easy path and claim credit for relaxing tensions with Beijing. I suspect that the CCP will eventually collapse as a result of it’s own convictions, but who knows how long, or how much damage.

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