US-China Diplomacy Makes Tricky Transition From Trump – Community News
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US-China Diplomacy Makes Tricky Transition From Trump

In late 2017, I studied abroad at a Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), while enrolling as a master’s candidate at Texas A&M University. At SIIS, Chinese professors often repeated points of discussion that the Chinese Communist Party considered dogma.

Midway through my time at SIIS, US President Donald Trump visited Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. During that visit, Trump showed Xi a video of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing a song in Mandarin to signify a new relationship between the US and China. The professor of my “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” called this meeting and Arabella’s performance a prime example of how promising US-China relations would be during Trump’s presidency.

The subtext was that Trump and his administration would provide China with the strategic opening it needed to move forward in core interests such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan and others without interference from a turbulent US administration. Although I tried to explain to my professor that the Trump administration had many hawks who dominated China policy, he and my Chinese classmates seemed to believe that the government would provide China with the strategic opportunity it has long wanted. It was a common belief among the Chinese elite, who knew little about Trump or American politics. They would soon be disappointed.

In late 2017, I studied abroad at a Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), while enrolling as a master’s candidate at Texas A&M University. At SIIS, Chinese professors often repeated points of discussion that the Chinese Communist Party considered dogma.

Midway through my time at SIIS, US President Donald Trump visited Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. During that visit, Trump showed Xi a video of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing a song in Mandarin to signify a new relationship between the US and China. The professor of my “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” called this meeting and Arabella’s performance a prime example of how promising US-China relations would be during Trump’s presidency.


From Trump to Biden and Beyond: Reimagining US-China Relations, Earl A. Carr Jr.  (editor), Palgrave Macmillan, 187 pp., .99, September 2021


From Trump to Biden and Beyond: A New Look at US-China RelationsEarl A. Carr Jr. (editor), Palgrave Macmillan, 187 pp., $59.99, September 2021

The subtext was that Trump and his administration would provide China with the strategic opening it needed to move forward in core interests such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan and others without interference from a turbulent US administration. Although I tried to explain to my professor that the Trump administration had many hawks who dominated China policy, he and my Chinese classmates seemed to believe that the government would provide China with the strategic opportunity it has long wanted. It was a common belief among the Chinese elite, who knew little about Trump or American politics. They would soon be disappointed.

The turbulence of the Trump administration’s China policy is captured in: From Trump to Biden and Beyond: A New Look at US-China Relations. This new book features insights from more than a dozen scholars and practitioners, including Ricardo Barrios, Winslow Robertson, Owakhela Kankhwende, Yaser Faheem, Asad Hussaini, Jeeho Bae, Junya Ishii, and many more.

They elaborate on how relations between the two countries changed dramatically under Trump’s tenure, paving the way for a new normal under his successor’s rule. For example, the Biden administration has tightened ties between the United States and Taiwan, as well as its aggressive trade policy toward China. The main difference between the two administrations is President Joe Biden’s willingness to bring allies with him.

At its core, this book contains dozens of recommendations on how the United States can overcome problems at home by leveraging strategic advantages — the same idea promoted in the Trump-era Biden administration’s recent shift from “great power competition” with China. to ‘strategic competition’. (The language, like many policy debates in Washington, isn’t particularly transparent, but the government’s priorities are documented.)

The overarching theme of these recommendations is how the new administration can build relationships with other countries and regions to better serve US interests — and compete with China where necessary. There are mounting tensions, which have emerged in countries like Portugal, which are caught between the United States as a security guarantor or partner of choice and China’s growing role as an economic opportunity for US allies and partners. Explaining this tension is made From Trump to Biden and beyond a timely read for policymakers looking to confront China by working with like-minded partners and allies.

The first regional relationship to be addressed is Latin America and the Caribbean, which began to play a more prominent role in Chinese overseas economic investment under the Trump administration. According to Barrios, Chinese investment vehicles such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have gained momentum in the region for their ability to address the leading sectors and needs of Latin American and Caribbean countries, such as extractive industries and agriculture. . Conversely, the Trump administration failed to provide these countries with the right incentives to curb growing Chinese influence.

While European and Indo-Pacific leaders often looked to the United States as an alternative to China, despite sometimes rocky relations, Latin American and Caribbean countries, the target of Trumpian rhetoric and wary of American history in the region, have been many. have been more reluctant to do business with Washington. For example, China has managed to create a significant presence, especially in the telecommunications sector. To counter this, Barrios recommends that the Biden administration promote the growth of China specialists in America and work with extra-regional allies and partners on humanitarian aid, infrastructure and other issues.

Africa has similar problems. Robertson and Kankhwende recommend that the Biden administration rethink the partnership framework and move beyond simply reversing Trump’s actions, such as barely touching the continent. As China has made its way to African countries through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and Xi’s direct engagement with its regional counterparts, the United States should also signal the importance of African countries.

This can be done quickly by Biden himself reaching out to African leaders one-on-one, as Xi and other Chinese leaders have done, and especially by offering the kind of face-to-face meetings in Washington that African heads of state and government receive in Beijing. It’s good to send US Vice President Kamala Harris and other senior officials, but African leaders can also feel left out if they don’t get to see Biden himself. Another recommendation is to deliver on COVID-19 vaccination commitments and encourage allies to do the same, which would yield significant returns for a small investment.

Likewise, Faheem and Hussaini argue that more Belt and Road projects in the Middle East illustrate growing Chinese influence by relying on the two most prominent members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. For China, this requires a delicate balancing act. Since Washington has their main security guarantee, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have leaned on the United States to counter Iran — and while eager to cooperate economically with Beijing, they see little prospect of similar Chinese military aid.

Chinese investments are also making relations with the US more difficult. For example, the Trump administration openly criticized Israel for receiving investment from China in the port of Haifa, and threatened to block future US Navy port calls. The tension between the United States’ role as a security guarantor and China’s as an economic opportunity is well known, especially in East Asia itself. There, according to Bae, South Korea is an important factor for the wider Indo-Pacific region, as it relies heavily on China for its economic prosperity, but at the same time it has an increasingly hostile public towards China and has committed itself to Americans. projects such as missile defense systems, despite Beijing’s threats and retaliation. This happened against the background of the Trump administration demanding more money for the presence of US troops in South Korea. The Biden administration can build on the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement by seeking greater technology cooperation, especially as semiconductors become more important to the global economy.

Finally, Ishii argues that the key role of East Asia in technology and supply chains is another theme of the recommendations. The utility of the quadrilateral security dialogue between Japan, India, Australia and the United States, known as the Quad, can be extended by encouraging and allowing the United States to take a leading role in the Indo-Pacific cooperation. It is fitting that Japan is taking on a more important role in the region, as one of the pillars of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s foreign policy has been the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept, which the Trump administration has adopted. accepted. However, the Biden administration will have to deal with heightened tensions between Japan and South Korea over Japan’s leading role as a democracy in the Indo-Pacific, especially given the Quad, the comprehensive and progressive agreement for a trans-Pacific partnership. and Japan’s desire to join. the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.

While this book provides a good overview of the transition from the Trump to Biden administrations on China policy, it misses many voices from Chinese academics and international relations practitioners themselves when examining China’s relations with the aforementioned. regions and countries. By not including more Chinese voices and perspectives, much of the book’s discussion of China’s perceptions and goals toward the United States seems circumstantial and assumed. Reaching agreement with China on key issues is important, but more discussions about China’s perspectives on this and how they interpret the nuts and bolts of finding common ground would provide more insight into where this is feasible.

Finally, From Trump to Biden and beyond shows how deep the rift in US-China relations has become since 2016. Whatever role Trump’s personal idiosyncrasies may have played, the structural issues pushing the United States and China into a more competitive relationship are shifting the relationship regardless of the White House resident. This book provides policymakers with a hefty list of recommendations by outlining the relationship between the US and China and its effects on other regions of the world through the tension between the role of the US security guarantee and China’s economic opportunities. From Trump to Biden and Beyond looks for common ground with China and pushes against Beijing where and when necessary.