Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Nov 10, 2020
To what extent will Biden’s priorities impact China?
Taming the Dragon — Biden on China

In the run-up to the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden’s views on China appear to have hardened. This shift mirrors a course correction in American foreign policy towards China in recent years that has switched from “balancing co-operation and competition, to competition and confrontation,” as some observers point out. The devastation wreaked by the pandemic, which has claimed more US citizens’ lives than the Vietnam War, has also led to a hardening of attitudes towards China.

Biden has underscored the need to get tough on China, and has gone to the extent of calling China’s President Xi Jinping a hoodlum. Biden’s emphasis on “advancing human rights” may impinge on some of China’s ‘core interests.’ Biden has spoken about appointing a points-person in the new administration to deal with Tibetan issues and to meet Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He has termed the treatment meted out to the Uighur minority by China’s Communist Party’s (CCP) as a genocide, and has also spoken of making CCP officials pay for violating civil liberties and human rights in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

With Sino-Taiwanese tensions rising, the Trump administration initiated the sale of sophisticated weapons systems, much to Beijing’s chagrin. It remains to be seen if the sale of armaments to Taiwan continue under Biden too. Taiwan is also on an unsteady wicket given the Obama administration’s track record, where the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was considering abandoning Taiwan, in exchange for China writing off American debt, according to WikiLeaks.

The question remains as to whether or not Biden’s campaign pledges translate into his administration’s policy. Moreover, to what extent will Biden’s priorities impact China? The president-elect has emphasised the need to rally global opinion to combat climate change, on which there seems to be common ground emerging with Xi’s China. Given that context, it remains to be seen if Biden’s engagement with China will come at the expense of nations like India, which are at the receiving end of China’s aggression, as the CCP may seek concessions on other disputes in return for cooperating on issues that are on Washington’s agenda.

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Kalpit A Mankikar

Kalpit A Mankikar

Kalpit A Mankikar is a Fellow with Strategic Studies programme and is based out of ORFs Delhi centre. His research focusses on China specifically looking ...

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