Joe Biden Will Succeed Donald Trump, but U.S.-China Relations Will Continue to Worsen
Xi Jinping has no illusions.
Joe Biden, who in a few weeks will become the 46th president of the United States, knows China well. Indeed, during the Obama presidency, from 2009 to 2017, Barack Obama had in fact given his Vice President extensive responsibilities by asking Joe Biden to take charge of the Chinese file.
Xi Jinping and Joe Biden have therefore met many times. They had the opportunity to deepen their relationship to the point that Xi Jinping has long nicknamed Joe Biden “my old friend”.
Knowing this, many people imagined that Xi Jinping and China would look favorably on the election of Joe Biden.
The time when Xi Jinping referred to Joe Biden as “my old friend” is long gone
However, Xi Jinping has still not sent a message of congratulations to the man who will become the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021. While the majority of heads of state around the world have already congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Xi Jinping has joined the camp of those who prefer to wait.
In this camp are Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The latter prefer to wait for the moment to show their respect to a man who had indirectly favored their goals for the past 4 years with his “America First” policy.
Xi Jinping’s wait is explained above all by the fact that the President of the People’s Republic of China is under no illusion about the policy Joe Biden will decide to pursue towards his country over the next four years.
Since Xi Jinping called Joe Biden “my old friend”, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. The world has changed, and more importantly, the United States has opened its eyes to its great adversary for the next decade.
Joe Biden called Xi Jinping a thug
To become the world’s leading power by 2030, China will necessarily be America’s adversary in the years to come. It cannot be otherwise.
In the year 2020, Joe Biden did not hesitate to call Xi Jinping a “thug” :
“Xi Jinping is a guy who doesn’t have a single bone of democracy in his skeleton. He is a thug.”
With statements like these, you can imagine that Xi Jinping wasn’t going to jump on his phone to call Joe Biden and congratulate him on his success against Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election of 2020.
During Joe Biden’s term, relations between China and the United States will continue to deteriorate. Xi Jinping may even end up regretting Donald Trump. In fact, I think he already does.
If Donald Trump’s policy for 4 years will have had many flaws, it will at least have had the merit of highlighting the Chinese problem for America.
Millions of Americans are now making China their enemy. Joe Biden will therefore not be able to go back on the Huawei file for example. He will have to continue the momentum of Donald Trump in the technological field.
China will remain an enemy, but Joe Biden’s approach will be different
Nevertheless, Joe Biden will adopt a different strategy from Donald Trump.
Donald Trump had decided to make the trade war with China his main weapon to fight against the emergence of the country of Xi Jinping. This strategy has shown its limits since the trade balance has never been rebalanced as Donald Trump hoped.
Joe Biden envisages a radically opposite approach.
Gone are the days of Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine, which had become “America Alone” over time. The United States is increasingly seen as an isolationist and bellicose nation. Joe Biden wants to remedy this by returning to multilateralism.
Joe Biden wants to put the United States back at the center of the world. This will require a strong return to the major world organizations such as the WTO and the WHO.
Donald Trump’s strategy has weakened the position of the United States in the world
Donald Trump’s strategy had left the field open to China, which took advantage of it for 4 years to extend its influence and leadership on the world. Joe Biden intends to change that.
For Joe Biden, it all starts with a return to normal with the Europeans. The United States and Europe are historical allies, and Joe Biden intends to strengthen the relationship again. It will also strengthen NATO, which Donald Trump had constantly criticized during his four years as president.
By getting closer to the European Union again, Joe Biden shows how he intends to hit China in the coming months.
It is by cooperating with the historic allies of the United States and world organizations that Joe Biden intends to undermine China’s emergence. Joe Biden will be more respectful and focus on the long term.
The opposite of Donald Trump who thought only in the short term and did not stop attacking China with no respect.
Joe Biden’s smarter approach will be more harmful to China
For Adam Ni, director of the China Policy Center in Australia, Joe Biden wants to make the United States win in the long-term competition between the two giants of the world:
“With Biden, we should have a more respectful, subtle and focused approach that doesn’t just attack but takes a long-term view of the competition.”
Washington’s great return to the international scene will also change the situation concerning the denunciation of China’s current actions towards the population of Hong Kong, which it is trying to bring under control, or the repression against the Muslim minority of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Joe Biden’s entourage has already described the internment of the Uighurs as a real genocide. The Biden administration should therefore particularly increase the pressure on Beijing in terms of human rights.
Beijing is also well aware that the coming to power of Joe Biden marks the real return of American democracy. The latter has been and still is, undermined by Donald Trump for the past 4 years. Anything that weakens democracy serves China’s interests indirectly.
This allows Beijing to praise its model while denigrating Western societies that are in decline precisely because of democracy.
The election of Joe Biden will be a turning point in U.S. foreign policy. Gone is the “America First” doctrine, the place for multilateralism. The United States will no longer let China appear as a champion of multilateralism.
Joe Biden wants America to regain its place in the world: that of the first world power that chooses cooperation rather than aggression. For China, this is bad news, because the return of the United States will give less room to increase its influence in the world.
The confrontation between the United States and China will continue in the years to come, but with a more strategically intelligent approach. The relationship between the two global giants will therefore continue to deteriorate.
Joe Biden will rely on his historical allies while continuing some of the actions undertaken by Donald Trump in the technological field in particular. For China, the hardest part begins.