Biden following Trump's playbook on China

Huang Panyue
2021-11-12 23:27:37

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks after late-night passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to repair the nation's airports, roads and bridges, at the White House in Washington, DC, Nov 6, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Since taking office, US President Joe Biden, though previously claiming he disagreed with his predecessor's approach to China, has actually stayed in lockstep with Donald Trump in this regard.

He has kept in place Trump's $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese exports, even though that means higher costs for US businesses and consumers. He has continued with the technology war targeting Chinese high-tech companies and adopted no softer stance on issues ranging from Taiwan to the South China Sea.

And on Tuesday, Biden showed that he is happy to continue with his predecessor's approach, saying that the United States will continue a Trump-era ban on US investments in Chinese companies that Washington claims are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

"The PRC is increasingly exploiting United States capital to resource and to enable the development and modernization of its military, intelligence, and other security apparatuses, which continues to allow the PRC to directly threaten the United States homeland and United States forces overseas," he said, while announcing he had extended the restrictions laid out in his predecessor's executive order of November 2020, part of Trump's war against Chinese tech leaders such as Huawei.

To suggest the development and modernization of the People's Liberation Army is dependent on foreign capital is absurd enough. But to infer from that the US — which spends more on national defense than China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and almost all other major countries combined — is being threatened militarily is near fantasy.

And Washington is at its whimsical best in deciding which companies are linked to the PLA and thus to be punished, no matter how far-fetched is the justification. This inevitably harms the legitimate interests of innocent Chinese companies and foreign investors.

One reason Biden has chosen to continue with the tough-on-China policy is because of the political climate in the US. He doesn't want to appear weak, especially with Trump criticizing him for showing "weakness" toward the country.

But a strong leader is not so easily swayed by brickbats, especially on issues that have a direct bearing on national interests. The top leaders of China and the US have already discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure "competition does not veer into conflict". It should be evident that a change of approach is required to responsibly manage their ties.

Washington should work with Beijing to arrest the downward spiral in bilateral relations, rather than continuing to propel it downward.


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