Should the Biden Administration Retain Trump’s China Policy?

In an op-ed at the Washington Post H. R. McMaster argues that the Biden Administration would be prudent to retain the foreign policy shift towards China that the Trump Administration put in place:

The shift was long overdue, because U.S. policy between the end of the Cold War and 2017 was based on a flawed assumption: that China, having been welcomed into the international order, would play by the rules, and, as it prospered, would liberalize its economy and, ultimately, its form of governance.

Instead, the Chinese Communist Party pursued an increasingly aggressive agenda, exploiting the United States’ policy of cooperation and engagement. As national security adviser at the time, I was among those who worked on the policy underpinning the strategic framework. Foremost among our new, more-realistic assumptions about the CCP’s aims was our belief that “strategic competition between the United States and China will persist, owing to the divergent nature and goals of our political and economic systems.”

As China has continued its aggressive economic and military policies, the accuracy of that assessment has been confirmed. No doubt the Biden administration will see ways to improve the strategic framework we devised, but continuity with the approach is essential. President-elect Joe Biden’s policy advisers can strengthen the framework by correcting three common misunderstandings about it.

I think there is next to no prospect of that happening. If it does happen President Biden will need to find some way of rehabilitating the policy among his own caucus which I suspect will be impossible to effect.

I think that Gen. McMasters’s take, too, is based on a misconception. The foundation of the American position in the world is its economic strength. Unless that is restored which would mean strengthening the dollar and an emphasis on producing a lot more of what we consume, nothing else that is done will make much difference. IMO what is more likely to happen is that in rebuilding our relationship with the EU we’ll be tugging our collective forelock at China as the EU is doing.

10 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    I don’t expect huge changes but I do expect an attempt to get other countries to work with us to address China issues. I expect China to do its usual and make vague promises that it never keeps. If China doesnt like one administration it can just wait for another one. So I hope the priority is actually on what we can do domestically. We need to stop making it easy for our own corporations and businesses to leave. I hope we also realize that if all we do is make things a bit better with China but then replicate elsewhere(s) it wont really help us that much.


  • I expect China to do its usual and make vague promises that it never keeps.

    You’ve noticed that too? Not only do they not keep the promises they generally do pretty much the opposite (just as they’re doing now). But you’ve got to admit they do write a heckuva press release.

  • Drew Link

    “We need to stop making it easy for our own corporations and businesses to leave.”

    The politicians you support ensure this will not happen. The more interesting question: How does one reconcile a greatly diminished capacity for many American consumers to purchase desired, but now higher priced, goods that would result from such policies, and politician’s survival?

  • bob sykes Link

    I don’t see very much Chinese (or Russian) aggression, but I do see an imperialist, militarist America that has invaded numerous countries since the fall of the USSR, not one of which attacked us, not even Afghanistan.

    But McMaster, like Keane and almost all of our military and civilian leadership is actually psychotic, delusional, accusing other countries of what we are doing.

    China is a peer power right now. It got that way because our financial overlords sold our heritage to them. Now we are the old joke, washing each other’s laundry.

    There is no going back. All of our allies except Canada and Norway have recently signed major trade agreements with China that will further integrate their economies with China’s. We are excluded from both of those treaties, as is the other big-time loser, India. Our allies can read the writing on the wall, and they are choosing up new sides. The old game is over, and a new one begins.

    Biden has appointed a large number of people from earlier administrations who are noted for their aggressive, militarist policies. A good example is Amb. Victoria Nuland, nominated to be Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the State Department. She is the one who organized the coup in 2014 that overthrew Ukraine’s only democratically elected President, and turned that benighted country over to the oligarchs. She is also openly contemptuous of the Europeans.

    So, I expect more wars, and old wars to reignite. I would not be surprised to see a large influx of troops into Afghanistan or even Somalia.

  • steve Link

    ” How does one reconcile a greatly diminished capacity for many American consumers to purchase desired, but now higher priced, goods that would result from such policies”

    Isn’t it you who keeps telling us you are bringing jobs back and we can bring back many more? If the only way we can have cheap stuff is to have it go to China not much sense talking about this.


  • I guess my answer to Drew’s question would be somewhat different from most. IMO personal consumption expenditures are presently far too high a percentage of GDP. They’re 70%. In 1970 they were 60%. We need to get them back down to 65% which is where they were in 2000. That would mean more production and fewer imports.

    I also think that we need to be thinking more about optimizing the productivity of the workers we have rather than adding more workers. That doesn’t sound like much but it’s completely contrary to what’s been happening for the last 40 years.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    The Trump administration in a last effort has declared Chinese treatment of the Uighurs genocide. Biden can hardly change course without renouncing that declaration.
    Or can he? No criticism would be forthcoming from the press. Silicon valley would offer meaningless policy changes to “improve conditions”, and the public would turn a blind eye in their pursuit of cheap cotton apparel at their local Walmart. Noted for soliciting donations from their vendors for various worthy charities. Balm for the conscience.
    Ralph Nader is gone, Sanders believes in the long term benefits of Communism. Everyone wins but the Uighurs.
    Shit happens, Biden unites. Don’t expect much there.

  • steve Link

    How do other countries do it? By international standards, as a percentage of median income, we are incredibly low at about 30%. Other countries with pretty successful economies, S Korea, Germany, Israel, etc, have their minimum wage set closer to 50%. I end uo thinking that a lot of the battle over the minimum wage is mostly symbolic in some way and that there are more important things about wages to look at.


  • Basically, the other countries of the world depend on exporting to the U. S. Those three countries are so unlike the U. S. it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s start here. As a percentage of GDP here’s personal consumption expenditures in those countries and the U. S.:

    Country Percent
    U. S. 70%
    Germany 52%
    S. Korea 51%
    Israel 51%

    All three are highly socially cohesive. Nearly 90% of Germany’s population are people of European descent. 95% of South Korea’s population are ethnic Koreans. Israel is basically an island the size of New Jersey. All three depend heavily on exports. Imports are tremendously lower than ours. Median household income in the U. S. is almost 50% higher than in Germany. Israel’s is similar. South Korea’s is closer to ours.

    For us to spend that little on personal consumption expenditures as a start we’d need to cut health care spending in half or more. I don’t see any way to increase our exports to the level of Germany’s. Every country in the world would impose tariffs against us.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    My biggest problem with $15/hr is entry level training type jobs. Should be a temporary step anyway. But it’s true that today jobs will be replaced by kiosks, self checkouts. $15 will accelerate that trend.
    I can just see us at the ER standing in line at a kiosk to enter our complaint and medication list to be dispensed a number. Or maybe online to receive a preliminary diagnosis priority code and receive a number.
    If still alive at the end of this message press eight………

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