Direction of the Biden Administration’s New China Policy


During the 2020 U.S. election, many pro-Taiwan independence “green Trump fans”* joined together with the far-right wing of the Republican Party, overseas anti-China forces, and Hong Kong Occupy Central activists to form an “anti-Biden” transnational coalition to confront the U.S. liberal establishment and Democratic Party mainstream. They fought hard to win the presidential election – and failed.

These die-hard Donald Trump supporters were so incensed that they condemned Joe Biden for “stealing the election” and “betraying America.” However, when the fanatical Trump fans took over Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, rioting and attempting to overturn the election results, violating the principles of American-style democracy in terms of legitimacy — of course, the result was public outrage, backlash and utter defeat.

It has been more than half a year since the U.S. presidential election, and looking back at the demands of those Trump loyalists, it is clear that they were not without sense. Biden’s China policy is indeed a change of course after Trump’s mania, blindness and flip-flopping.

First, the Biden administration announced in July that it “does not support Taiwan independence” and affirmed that the United States has returned to a “One China” position, while emphasizing it would maintain “unofficial” relations with Taiwan. In addition, Biden has reiterated that he would cooperate and compete with mainland China, but avoid a return to the conflict and antagonism of a new Cold War and prevent any unintentional military confrontation. In other words, the goal is to prevent war in the Taiwan Strait and conflict in the South China Sea, not for the U.S. to raise its stance and deliberately intensify the confrontation.

Second, Biden announced the full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, officially ending a 20-year war. This is a signal of the decline of U.S. national power, and show that Biden is determined to avoid military conflict. He also proposed an infrastructure budget of up to $6 trillion, which is still being negotiated in Congress and will likely be scaled back to $3.5 trillion. This choice to insist on strengthening domestic power, improving people’s livelihood and competing with China on the basis of actual strength is an important one for Biden.

Third, in mid-June, Biden proposed the “Build Back Better World” program to the Group of Seven and other allies during his trip to Europe, with the aim of competing with China’s Belt and Road Initiative to provide more and better alternatives for countries in terms of infrastructure. This is the first time the U.S. has acknowledged the positive role of the Belt and Road Initiative and advocated a formal challenge to the Chinese initiative through healthy rivalry by means of economic competition.

Fourth, after formally meeting with EU and Russian leaders in Europe, Biden’s diplomatic team is now actively arranging for him to meet with Xi Jinping to build a new type of major power relationship between China and the United States through direct face-to-face conversation. We are stepping into a new era of the Group of Two, and the issue of Taiwan and the South China Sea will be the focus of the discussion.

Judging from the aforementioned approach and its pace, Biden’s style is moderate and progressive, as he refrains from actively making enemies or intensifying conflicts, while not evading differences in ideology. He is aware that the era of U.S. dominance is over, and that the U.S. must unite the strength of allies in order to regain leadership and recover international relations that deteriorated under the Trump administration.

Although the EU powers have shown Biden adequate courtesy, maintaining the appearance of solidarity and cooperation, it is clear that Germany and France oppose a “pro-U.S., anti-China” position. Therefore, although Biden declares that “America is back,” he knows very well that America’s power has been gradually weakening and is far from what it used to be. The U.S. can only look to itself to rebuild a divided democracy through key measures addressing social welfare and infrastructure, as well as by narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, improving race relations and enhancing the quality of education in order to improve the competitiveness of its people.

In other words, under Biden, competition with China will require a long journey of preparation for the very difficult task of defending U.S. hegemony; it will not be a short-term populist operation, nor will it lead to gunfire.

*Translator’s Note: Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party’s representative color is green.

The author is a professor at Chinese Culture University.

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About Pinyu Hwang 39 Articles
I'm an undergraduate student at Yale University interested in linguistics and computer science. With a childhood split between Taiwan and the US, I'm fond of pinball machines in the night markets, macarons, tea, stories, and language.

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