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Biden Expected To Be Tougher On China Than Previous Democratic Administrations

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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  • President-elect Joe Biden is expected to be tougher on China than previous Democratic administrations.
  • However, it’s unclear if Biden will have the stomach to duke it out with China in the way President Donald Trump has for the past four years.
  • “It’s going to be a mixture of more cooperation with targeted competition in certain areas like economics, technology and human rights,” said Dan Blumenthal, the director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to be tougher on China than previous Democratic administrations, but his ability to push back against Chinese aggression may be hampered due to his ambitious domestic policy agenda.

And it’s an open question whether the Biden administration will have the stomach to duke it out with China in the way the Trump administration did, said Dan Blumenthal, the author of “The China Nightmare” and director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Biden “will certainly be tougher than the Obama administration was, and that’s recognizing the reality that China is on the march abroad and oppressive at home in ways that many did not expect,” Blumenthal said.

“It’s not going to be the same hard-line policy as we’ve seen over the last few years,” Blumenthal added. “It’s going to be a mixture of more cooperation with targeted competition in certain areas like economics, technology and human rights.”

In terms of trade, Biden told The New York Times in December that he will not act to immediately to remove President Donald Trump’s import tariffs on China, nor will he remove Trump’s agreement requiring China to purchase an additional $200 billion in American goods in 2020 and 2021.

Biden said his goal was to pursue new trade policies with China that would curb their economic abuses such as intellectual property theft, illegal corporate subsidies and “tech transfers” from American companies to their counterparts in China.

But Biden also said he will not enter into any new trade agreements with any foreign power “until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers.”

Biden announced a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal on Thursday that would deliver additional stimulus payments to Americans, boost unemployment aid and provide additional assistance to people struggling to pay rent because they became unemployed during the pandemic.

While Biden and his foreign policy team have been outspoken in their criticism of Chinese abuses at home, particularly in their treatment of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong, it’s unclear exactly how he intends to push back against Chinese human rights abuses.

“The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” Biden’s secretary of state nominee, Tony Blinken, tweeted in January. His comments followed after news broke that dozens of former Hong Kong lawmakers and activists had been arrested for allegedly violating the city’s new security law, which outlaws political dissent against Beijing.

Much of the criticism Biden and his foreign policy team have levied against Trump’s approach to China has centered around his treatment towards U.S. allies in the region and their belief that Trump has damaged American democracy at home.

“China, as a result of the last three-and-a-half years, is in a stronger position and we’re in a weaker position, and that’s what a Biden administration would have to start to rebuild from,” Blinken said during an interview with the Hudson Institute in July.

“Unfortunately, in my judgment, the Trump has helped them advance their interests,” Blinken said. “China sees alliances as a core source of strength for the United States, something they don’t share or enjoy. Unfortunately, the way President Trump has pursued his policies, that’s weakened, not strengthened our cour alliances in the region.”

Blinken also pointed to Trump’s “abdication” of standing up for American values has given China a greater sense of impunity in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and its human rights abuses against the minority Uighur population. (RELATED: ‘Uighur Alarms’ Just The Latest In Long List Of China’s Worst Human Rights Abuses)

Blumenthal noted that China is seizing on the Capitol riot earlier in January as a way to divert attention away from its own human rights abuses.

“There’s no question that the assault on the Capitol hurt our standing in the democratic world and with China,” Blumenthal said. “China is using it as a propaganda play to say that we shouldn’t be criticizing anybody.

The Global Times, a Chinese state-run propaganda outlet, implied the day following the Capitol riot that Americans were hypocrites for approving the actions of protesters in Hong Kong fighting against Beijing’s takeover of the city while denouncing rioters that sought to disrupt the certification of Biden’s legitimate victory over Trump.

Blumenthal said Biden’s talk of boosting American alliances to combat China will be easier said than done, noting that the European Union signed a trade agreement in December that expanded China’s market access in the region.

“As the Europeans just proved with their investment deal with China, it’s not going to be easy to get alliances on board with a tougher China policy,” he said. “The Biden administration will come to find that out fairly quickly.”

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