China looms as Biden’s biggest foreign policy challenge. Here’s where he stands

But in capitals around the globe, foreign leaders are already clamoring for his consideration, hoping to reset relationships and restore norms that shifted underneath President Donald Trump.

Nowhere will there be higher alternative for a shift than within the US-China relationship, which has deteriorated to historic lows throughout Trump’s time period in workplace. Over the previous 4 years, each side have slapped the opposite with commerce tariffs, restricted entry for tech corporations, journalists and diplomats, shuttered consulates, and squared off militarily within the South China Sea.

Analysts in each nations are nonetheless debating whether or not Biden will embrace Trump’s extra punitive insurance policies in the direction of China or transfer to reset relations between Washington and Beijing.

Even in Chinese state-run media, there are indicators the ruling Communist Party is holding its breath, uncertain of which route the brand new administration will take.

“China should not harbor any illusions that Biden’s election will ease or bring a reversal to China-US relations, nor should it weaken its belief in improving bilateral ties. US competition with China and its guard against China will only intensify,” state-run tabloid Global Times mentioned in an editorial Sunday.

As but, no official policy statements on China have been launched by the Biden transition workforce. Biden, although, isn’t any foreign policy novice. During his virtually 5 many years in nationwide politics, Biden has repeatedly brushed up towards China. As a senator, he performed a task in China turning into a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Analysts at the moment are trying again over previous statements and more moderen feedback made on the marketing campaign path for perception into how Biden will method what may be his most urgent foreign policy problem.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are welcomed by then-US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C. in 2015.

Relations with Beijing

During the Obama administration, during which Biden served as vice-president from 2009 to 2017, relations with Beijing had been assigned a excessive diploma of significance, stemming partially from China’s new standing as the world’s second-largest economic system.

Though China was gaining power each economically and militarily, diplomacy throughout this era was guided for probably the most half by makes an attempt at cooperation, fairly than confrontation. Major disputes had been principally contained, and centered on safety points, such as China’s navy buildup within the South China Sea and cyber espionage.

According to Obama, the connection between two nations would form the 21st century, and due to this fact steady relations had been crucial not just for the US, however for the world at massive.

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Biden traveled to Beijing on quite a few events throughout efforts to realize Chinese assist for a variety of key Obama insurance policies, together with makes an attempt to include North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

During one such journey in 2013, Biden met with President Xi Jinping, who referred to the then Vice President as an “old friend of China.” A scheduled 45-minute personal speak between the 2 leaders ran for 2 hours.

In public remarks, Biden described relations in optimistic phrases. “If we get this relationship right with a genuine new model, the possibilities are limitless.”

But regardless of accusations from the Trump marketing campaign that Biden was too near China, there’s proof that his views have shifted in recent times consistent with the altering temper in Washington, where Beijing is more and more considered not as America’s potential companion, however as its main rival.

During the Democratic primaries in February, Biden referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “thug,” and mentioned that Beijing needed to “play by the rules.” A Biden marketing campaign advert in June accused Trump of getting “played” by China.
The renewed deal with China is obvious in the Democratic Party platform doc, which was launched in August 2020. During the final presidential marketing campaign in 2016 the doc made solely seven references to China. This 12 months’s model had greater than 22.

“Democrats will be clear, strong, and consistent in pushing back where we have profound economic, security, and human rights concerns about the actions of China’s government,” the 2020 platform mentioned.


One of the primary planks of President Trump’s foreign policy platform has been his commerce conflict with China.

Since mid-2018, the Trump administration has positioned tariffs on a whole bunch of billions of {dollars} of Chinese imports, in an try and drive down the US commerce deficit with China and pressure Beijing to additional open its economic system.

Beijing and Washington struck a “phase one” trade deal in January 2020, however many areas of disagreement nonetheless stay unaddressed, together with China’s subsidies for state-owned corporations which are competing on the worldwide market.
Recent remarks from Biden recommend he would proceed to take motion towards Beijing over its financial insurance policies. But in an interview with NPR in August, he made it clear he believed that tariffs had been as unhealthy for the US as they had been for China.
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“Manufacturing’s gone in recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay. We’re going after China in the wrong way,” he mentioned.

Instead Biden seems to favor constructing a worldwide coalition to pressure China into liberalizing its economic system.

“What I’d make China do is play by the international rules, not like he has done,” Biden mentioned throughout his second debate with Trump in October. “We need to be having the rest of our friends with us saying to China, ‘These are the rules. You play by them, or you’re going to pay the price for not paying by them economically’.”

There are additionally indicators that Biden could embrace points of Trump’s tech conflict towards China. Under Trump, the US has tried to push diplomatic companions to reject 5G expertise made in China, minimize off Beijing from important US parts and focused in style apps run by Chinese corporations.

Biden mentioned in September that he was involved concerning the widely-used Chinese-owned app TikTok, which has been a outstanding goal of the Trump administration. “I think that it’s a matter of genuine concern that TikTok, a Chinese operation, has access to over 100 million young people particularly in the United States of America,” he mentioned.

In the 2020 Democratic Platform, there’s one other trace {that a} Biden administration will proceed Trump’s push to cease allies from utilizing 5G expertise produced by Chinese tech large Huawei. “We will work with our allies and partners to develop secure 5G networks and address threats in cyberspace,” the platform mentioned.

South China Sea

Both the Obama and the Trump administrations have pursued insurance policies that pushed again towards the Chinese authorities’s broad, unproven claims within the South China Sea.

It was in the course of the Obama-Biden administration that the Chinese authorities started to assemble and militarize synthetic islands within the huge waterway. The US then began freedom of navigation operations within the area, crusing US naval vessels in shut proximity to the synthetic islands and reefs constructed by Beijing in a present that Washington wouldn’t acknowledge China’s claims.
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Under Trump, the US has stepped up these operations and publicly declared that “most” of China’s claims to the ocean are unlawful.

Biden has made no main public statements on the South China Sea however there isn’t a indication at this stage that he will reverse Trump’s robust insurance policies within the area — he may even strengthen them.

In 2016 the Democratic platform referred merely to defending “freedom of the seas in the South China Sea.” Four years later, it now explicitly warns of “the Chinese military’s intimidation” within the area.

More than as soon as throughout his marketing campaign, Biden has informed the story of how he bluntly knowledgeable President Xi in 2013 that the US would proceed to fly planes by way of the area, regardless of the Chinese authorities establishing an unrecognized Air Defense Identification Zone.
“(He said) you can’t fly through them. I said we’re going to fly through them … We’re not going to pay attention,” Biden mentioned throughout his second debate with Trump in October.

Biden has strengthened his place on staring down China’s expansionist claims in Asia Pacific since turning into President-elect. In a cellphone name with Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide on Thursday, Biden dedicated to defending the contested Senkaku Islands within the East China Sea, that are claimed by each Japan and China.


Under President Trump, the US has moved to strengthen official ties with Taiwan, particularly in the course of the previous 12 months. The Trump administration has licensed billions of dollars of arms sales to the self-governed island and, in August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar grew to become most senior US official to go to Taiwan in many years.

Biden has lengthy been in favor of US assist for Taiwan and its democratically elected authorities. In truth, throughout his time as a senator, the President-elect voted for the unique Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, which allowed the US to keep up unofficial relations with Taipei whereas additionally formally recognizing the Beijing authorities.

Analysis: Whether Trump or Biden wins in November, Beijing will be hoping to reset the US-China relationship
China maintains that Taiwan is a part of its territory, although the 2 sides have been ruled individually because the finish of a civil conflict in 1949. Chinese President Xi has pledged to “reunite” Taiwan with mainland China, by force if necessary.
In an opinion piece written in 2001, the then-senator mentioned that the US had a “vital interest in helping Taiwan sustain its vibrant democracy.” But he made it clear that the US did not have an “obligation” to defend the island from assault. “The president should not cede to Taiwan, much less to China, the ability automatically to draw us into a war across the Taiwan Strait,” he mentioned.

Biden hasn’t spoken extensively about Taiwan on the marketing campaign path or since starting his transition. But there isn’t a indication he is planning to again down on Trump’s insurance policies.

Biden tweeted his congratulations to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen when she was re-elected in January 2020 and he or she reciprocated when he received in November.

In a telling signal, the Democratic Party eliminated all point out of a “One China” policy from its platform in 2020, the settlement by which the US acknowledged that there’s just one China and Taiwan is a part of it.

The policy, which had featured in 2016, was changed by new seemingly up to date language. Instead, the Democrats at the moment are dedicated to persevering with “a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”

Xinjiang and Hong Kong

Since the Trump administration took energy in 2017, there was a rising stream of stories of widespread human rights abuses in China’s western area of Xinjiang.

The US State Department estimates as much as two million residents from Muslim minorities, together with numerous Uyghur individuals, have been held in detention facilities, where former detainees allege they had been indoctrinated, abused and even sterilized.

Uyghurs are desperate for action in Xinjiang. Some say only Trump can help

In the previous 12 months, the Trump administration has taken a sequence of punitive actions towards China over its Xinjiang insurance policies, together with sanctions focusing on Communist Party officers and bans on items made probably with Uyghur pressured labor.

Ahead of the election on November 3, a variety of Uyghur exiles informed CNN that they had been involved that Biden wasn’t tough enough to tackle Beijing and produce actual outcomes for his or her associates and households in Xinjiang.

But all statements by Biden, his marketing campaign and the Democratic Party level present little tolerance for Beijing’s alleged focusing on of the Uyghurs and hints {that a} Biden administration will take additional motion.

Speaking about Chinese President Xi at a Democratic Primary debate in February, Biden mentioned, “This is a guy who is a thug, who in fact has a million Uyghurs in ‘reconstruction camps,’ meaning concentration camps.”

The Biden marketing campaign has labeled China’s actions in Xinjiang “genocide,” a label which the Trump administration was still debating earlier this 12 months. If a Biden administration adopted the identical language, it will put the US far forward of most different nations in its condemnation of Beijing.

Exiled Uyghurs aren’t alone of their issues that Trump leaving the White House would result in the US backing down on its robust method to China.

Many pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, who’ve been struggling towards a Chinese authorities crackdown on civil liberties within the worldwide monetary hub, had additionally hoped for a second Trump term, citing issues that Biden will not be robust sufficient on Beijing.
But in a statement in May, Biden’s marketing campaign blamed Trump for China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and promised that going ahead there can be “clear, strong, and consistent on values when it comes to China.”

CNN’s James Griffiths, Steven Jiang and Jill Disis contributed to this story.

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