Politics China plays the Trump card, but Biden is not buying it
Beijing's 2008 Olympics were a soft power victory for China, but 2022 may be another story
As the sound of fireworks rang out over Beijing to mark the close of the 2008 Summer Olympics, China's leaders could have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief. © Ezra Shaw/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images A welcome message is displayed during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Remembered today as an event in which record-breaking sporting achievements were matched only by the spectacular pageantry and organization of the Games, the success of the Beijing Olympics was no sure thing.
For its first month, the Biden administration lamented "the former guy's mess" on the pandemic, the economy, vaccinations and foreign policy. But during his, President Biden finally said, "I'm tired of talking about Donald Trump. I don't want to talk about him anymore."
China's leaders, however, believe that blaming the former administration for Sino-U.S. tensions will leverage anti-Trump animus for Biden's "flexibility" on contentious issues. With Trump gone, Washington can forget "the China threat" and revert to the "normalcy" that Beijing found so advantageous during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
Fact check: Breaking down Joe Biden's first month of claims
President Joe Biden was more consistently factual in his first month in office than his predecessor ever was in office. But Biden was not perfect.President Joe Biden was more consistently factual in his first month in office than his predecessor ever was in office. But Biden was not perfect himself.
Last week, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, again called for a return to the pre-Trump era of good feelings.was unabashedly entitled, "Promoting Dialogue and Cooperation and Managing Differences: Bringing China-U.S. Relations Back to the Right Track"
Wang cited thebetween Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping: "This very important phone call has oriented China-U.S. relations that had been struggling to ascertain its bearings at a crossroads. It has also sent out the first encouraging news of this spring for the two countries and the whole world."
Wang identified the source of the frictions: "The root cause was that the previous U.S. administration, out of its own political needs, seriously distorted China's future path and policy and ... took various measures to suppress and contain China, which inflicted immeasurable damage to bilateral relations. Today, to right the wrongs and bring the relationship back to the right track, the walls of misperceptions must be torn down."
As U.S., U.K. Converge on China, British Lawmaker Says 'Golden Era Is Over'
An "awakening" to the challenges posed by Beijing has caused a shift in attitude in the United Kingdom, says Tom Tugendhat, chair of China Research Group.Echoing recent sentiments expressed on Capitol Hill, Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said there had been an "awakening" in the U.K. to the many irreconcilable practices of the Chinese government.
Biden's campaign rhetoric conflated the president's erratic style and his national security team's sober policies. Chinese officials anticipated the revival of "strategic patience" and "leading from behind" practiced by the Obama-Biden administration, where many ofserved.
"We know that the new U.S. administration is reviewing and assessing its foreign policy," Wang said. "We hope that U.S. policymakers will keep pace with the time, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions, and move to bring the China policy back to reason."
Wang specified what the post-Trump policy would entail: "[S]top smearing the [Communist Party of China] and China's political system, stop conniving at or even supporting the erroneous words and actions of separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence,' and stop undermining China's sovereignty and security on internal affairs concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet." In other words, he said, "China and the United States should first take care of their own stuff."
CPAC puts a bullseye on China
GOP hopefuls are already hammering the line that Biden is “soft-on-China.”Elected Republicans wanting to excite the audience littered their speeches with references to the former president. Breakout sessions and high-profile panels featured former officials plucked straight from his administration. Even a gilded Trump statue — adorned in American-flag shorts and the ex-president’s iconic red tie — was wheeled throughout the exhibition hall to the amusement of attendees.
To Beijing's chagrin, the Biden administration is having none of it. State Department spokesmanof Wang's speech, "His comments reflect a continued pattern of Beijing's tendency to avert blame for its predatory economic practices, its lack of transparency, its failure to honor its international agreements, and its repression of universal human rights."
Price was obviously speaking for his boss, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, of whom Biden has stated: "You speak for me." Blinken has not shrunk from speaking critically of China, and even endorsing core Trump administration policies.: "I think President Trump was right to take a tougher line on some of the egregious things that China has done, and is doing, that are counter to our interests and counter to our values." Where he and Biden fault Trump is "the way that we went about doing it did not produce results. ... [Doing] it more effectively ... has to be approaching China from a position of strength, not weakness. ... [F]irst and foremost, ... working in close coordination with allies and partners who may be similarly aggrieved by some of China's practices."
Fact checking Trump's CPAC speech
Former President Donald Trump returned to the public stage on Sunday with a familiar kind of Trump speech -- a speech filled with debunked lies. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Former President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them.
Regarding the pandemic, which the Biden team previously blamed almost entirely on Trump, Blinken condemned Beijing's complicity,, "It requires countries to be transparent ... to share information ... to give access to international experts at the beginning of an outbreak - things that, unfortunately, we haven't seen from China." That was a lesson that Trump tragically learned too late in his on-again, off-again bromance with Xi.
Blinken broadened his attack on China's congenital media suppression, calling it "one of the least open information spaces in the world. ... [The Chinese people] want free and open sharing of information. That's being denied to them by their own government."
Beijing surely was not happy to hear words sounding very much like those from Blinken's predecessor, Mike Pompeo, when he derogated Chinese media as government pawns: "[China] takes advantage of the fact that many of our countries have fully free and open information spaces, and China uses that to spread misinformation and propaganda."
Meanwhile, on trade, the only China issue where Trump sustained interest, Beijing got another tough message from the Biden team. Regarding Trump's agreement, Katherine Tai, U.S. trade representative,"similar goals but in a more process-driven manner." She declared the much criticized tariffs "a very important part of our fair trade remedies toolbox" because China "needs to deliver" on its promises. Biden also has retained Trump's restrictions on technology exports, but has sent mixed signals about enforcing them.
As China Gray Zone Warfare Escalates, U.S. May Stand to Lose First Shooting Battle
"I think China now has adequate forces, including air, missile, electronic warfare, spec ops, naval, undersea and nuclear to likely prevail in the first phase and perhaps in subsequent phases too," Lyle Goldstein of the Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute told Newsweek.But one wrong move could lead to catastrophe, or even all-out conflict. And if a shooting battle does break out, there's a solid chance the U.S. could lose the first fight with the People's Liberation Army.
The national security transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration initially appears to be seamless. In the South China Sea, the Biden team is continuing, and possibly expanding, vigorous Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS) to oppose China's unlawful claims. In the month since Biden's inauguration, the U.S. Navyseveral FONOPS by traversing international waters around artificial islands China constructed on reefs and islets. It also made several "innocent passages" through territorial waters within 12 miles of coastal land or natural islands claimed by China, as well as by Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines. But only China among the interested countries has complained that Washington should have asked permission or given notice before making the innocent passages - something not required by the .
In the same period, the Navy made at least two transits of the Taiwan Strait over China's usual strong objections. Significantly, allied nations have increased the number of their own FONOPS and Strait transits, clearly in consultation with the United States. Said Blinken: "People are seeing by our actions - not just what we're saying, by what we're doing - that, as the president likes to say, 'America's back, America's engaged, America's leading.'"
Biden may not wish to hear his predecessor's name again, but his forthright actions to date have earned him China's condemnation for "Trumpism." While "Trumpism without Trump" may not be Biden's preferred China policy, he and his team deserve credit for moving American foreign policy back to its bipartisan roots.
Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Global Taiwan Institute.
Biden Steers Off a Blunt Anti-China Message With Asian Allies .
As President Joe Biden seeks to shore up ties with allies in Asia, he’s reshaping the message to avoid spooking them about America’s intentions when it comes to China. © Bloomberg U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 8, 2021. Australia, Japan and India all fret about Beijing’s expanding economic and military heft, and the first meeting on Friday of leaders of the group known as the Quad will be a show of unity against Beijing. Even so, they are wary of being pulled by the U.S.