Biden’s tough policy on Beijing means US-China relations will only get worse – Community News
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Biden’s tough policy on Beijing means US-China relations will only get worse

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden (file photo) |  Bloomberg
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden (file photo) | Bloomberg

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Washington: Six months into his presidency, Joe Biden unveils strict China policies that suggest relations between the world’s two largest economies will only get worse.

A spate of US actions in recent days — including a planned warning to US companies in Hong Kong, new import controls for the Xinjiang region and talks over a digital trade deal that would exclude Beijing — underscore Biden’s intention to extend the president’s mandate. Donald Trump to expand and deepen. more confrontational approach.

Biden administration officials say the US strategy is in response to China’s own aggressive behavior. That stance will force investors and companies caught in the middle of what Biden himself has defined as a decisive battle of the 21st century to make tough choices, and may come as a surprise to those who expected a softer touch under the Democratic president.

“It’s very clear that the US under the Biden administration will continue the trend we saw during the Trump administration and before,” said David Loevinger, director of emerging markets at TCW Group Inc. “There is some disappointment – ​​investors expected a different approach.”

Beijing officials may have also expected a difference, after the tumult of the Trump years. But in Washington, officials of the Biden administration point to a series of hostile actions by President Xi Jinping’s administration that they say forced the US, adding that the challenge now is to keep the relationship competitive, and not of conflict. Recent actions on both sides show how difficult that will be.

Chinese leaders have so far closed down any possibility of cooperation in an investigation into the origin of the Covid-19 outbreak, with some scientists saying the possibility of an accidental leak from a research facility in Wuhan cannot be ruled out. China has stepped up military incursions into Taiwanese airspace and has continued with a crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong. The country is even building new missile silos in the western desert, suggesting it is expanding its nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, repression against ethnic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region continues and, in a punch to the face of Western investors, within days Chinese regulators launched a cybersecurity investigation into Didi Global Inc., the Uber-like ride-sharing app. its first public offering of $4.4 billion in the US That led to a 24% plunge in the stock.

‘Getting stronger’

Senior US officials are suggesting those actions and others have left them no choice. The officials, who asked not to be identified when discussing policy deliberations, said Beijing is denying fundamental freedoms and eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy after the city spent decades building one of the world’s financial capitals.

At the same time, the US is increasingly concerned that risks to the rule of law, which once only applied to mainland China, now extend to Hong Kong, citing events such as the closure of media company Apple Daily, an outlet that spotlight on corruption and anti-government protests in the city.

“The national consensus on cracking down on China is based on a single factor: the behavior of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Miles Yu, a former State Department official under Trump. “The Biden team has understood that reality.”

For their part, Chinese officials claim that the US is the aggressor, not the other way around. They point to repeated US sanctions against Chinese officials and what they call the hypocrisy of lecturing other nations on human rights and the need for democratic reform as they grapple with police brutality and the January 6 attack on the Capitol at home.

A Chinese official, who asked not to be identified while discussing his country’s strategy, said US actions regarding Taiwan and elsewhere have fueled widespread belief in Beijing that the US is determined to halt China’s rise. to call. As long as the US refuses to lower its weapons, China will do the same, the person said.

“The Chinese people will never allow foreign troops to bully, coerce and enslave us,” Xi said in a speech earlier this month. He warned that the country would no longer listen to “hypocritical preaching.”

Also read: Joe Biden Nominates Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as US Ambassador to India

Competition of the 21st century

The Biden administration has long said it is willing to work with China where it can and confront the country where it must. Now the results are clear: Biden joined forces with allies and repeatedly tried to put pressure on China at recent meetings of the Group of 7 Leading World Economies in the UK. ties with Taiwan.

As with previous administrations, Biden relies heavily on sanctions to impose charges on Chinese officials, although there are few concrete examples of such restrictions altering a country’s decision-making process. The government also wants to push further — through export and import controls — against China’s oppression of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

With some allies in Europe and Asia looking for a softer approach, Biden’s team insists the US is not asking other countries to take sides. Early this summer, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will rely on “innovation, not ultimatums”. But that contrasts with Biden’s own words, such as when he addressed Congress in April and defined China’s approach as a battle that only happens once in a generation.

“We are competing with China and other countries to win the 21st century,” Biden said. “We are at a major turning point in history.”

The battle for the car-sharing company Didi shows how competition between the US and China is entering new realms, a trend that will present tough choices for companies and countries that may not be able to do business with both countries at the same time.

Under Biden, the US continues to urge other governments to buy Huawei Technologies Co. in China from their next-generation 5G telecommunications systems. China, meanwhile, has offered its home-grown Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to countries like Paraguay in what analysts say is an effort to get them to give up their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

Fighting is looming on other fronts, too: the US wants to impose further restrictions on the export of state-of-the-art semiconductor technology to China, and the White House has raised the possibility of an Indo-Pacific-wide digital trade deal excluding Beijing.

But with two such intertwined economies, some experts see great risks if the tit-for-tat continues.

“The leading US companies must be active in the Chinese market and have access to Chinese innovation to maintain global leadership,” said Jim McGregor, APCO’s Global China Chairman. “They cannot be forced to choose between the US or China. If things get really dire, they may have to come up with structural solutions with spin-offs or stock listings that provide some separation between the US and Chinese operations.”

And despite all the rancor, the data shows how difficult it will be to tear apart the world’s two largest economies.

Chinese data shows that exports of commodities to the US have been at a record pace so far this year, while US figures point to growth well above 2020, but lower than previous years. Meanwhile, US shipments to China are at or near record levels.

Also read: China commits ‘genocide’ against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, US State Department report says

Tense meetings

Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will leave for Beijing at the end of this month, according to three people familiar with the case. US officials hope the trip will go better than the last time the two sides held a high-level meeting when Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan were subjected to a scathing rant from top Chinese officials during talks in Alaska.

But officials are pessimistic about any significant improvement, especially given the number of high-profile hot spots looming on the calendar in the coming years.

Calls for the US to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are mounting, while US midterm elections later that year will only add to the rhetoric. In China, Xi is likely to sharpen his own tone as he seeks to further bolster his power with a third five-year term as president of China, a reversal of three decades of policies that limited leaders to two terms.

Biden hasn’t even met Xi in person as president, and officials aren’t yet sure how much interaction the two leaders will have at a Group of 20 meeting in Rome in October.

According to Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, the main goal of such discussions at the moment would be damage limitation.

“Efforts will be made to put up guardrails to prevent competition from escalating into confrontation and spiraling out of control,” Glaser said. “That will be a main objective of the bilateral dialogue.” —Bloomberg

Also read: Joe Biden urges Putin to crack down on ransomware groups, warns of ‘consequences’

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