Biden said he is in no rush to engage China. However, critics are saying that as the Biden administration is playing the long game, it is just being played.
Joe Biden has so far held calls with around a dozen world leaders, from President of France to Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin. However, the head of China, the world’s No. 2 economy and America’s chief geopolitical rival, hasn’t talked to Biden yet.
— Firstpost (@firstpost) February 8, 2021
It is not because Biden has nothing to say to Xi Jinping, the head of China’s communist system. Instead, it is quite the opposite. The United States of America currently has a long list of grievances to the air. It is starting from Beijing’s crushing of democracy to Hong Kong to its underhanded trade practices.
Despite the growing list of concerns, Biden aides’ are taking their time and toning down the rhetorical temperature while touching base with U.S. allied nations and holding stock of the policies that former President Trump left behind.
Five days after Biden sat as the newly elected President of the United States, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that the Biden administration was “starting from an approach of patience related to our relationship with China.”
“We’re starting from an approach of patience as it relates to our relationship with China,” Psaki said.
— The Epoch Times – China Insider (@EpochTimesChina) January 26, 2021
However, the concern of some former officials is that President Biden is just getting organized while the communist leader Xi Jinping is seizing the moment. For instance, he secured a massive investment deal with the European Union that aims to fasten ties with the 27 country bloc.
In addition to that, the longer that Biden takes to make more significant moves in relation to China, the more he risks letting the communist country dictate the course of events overseas.
Meanwhile, former Trump trade adviser Clete Williams said, “It’s a strategy to keep us divided. There is no question [Chinese leaders] see the U.S. shifting, at least rhetorically, to a more multilateral posture, and they want to make that difficult for us.”
Biden’s approach to China gained some defenders, too, particularly at this early stage.
Daniel Russel, a former senior Asia advisor in the Obama administration, said, “they are determined to put into place the elements of a smart China strategy. It takes time, but I think they are committed to trying to get it right. They’re not oblivious to the time pressures.”
Other Lawmakers are Watching
Other people who are watching the ticking clock are Republicans who are eager to make a move.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has put on at least two of the Biden administration’s picks. First, Gina Raimondo Commerce nominee, and second, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.
Under questioning from @tedcruz, Biden admin nominee for Commerce Secretary Gov Gina Raimondo (D-RI) did NOT commit to keeping Huawei on Commerce’s Entity List https://t.co/K3ZmzDNOod pic.twitter.com/8YOslrThUx
— Benjamin Weingarten (@bhweingarten) January 28, 2021
Cruz accuses both of these nominees of being insufficiently tough on China. Together with other GOP members, he is concerned that Raimondo and other Biden officials might remove Chinese military and telecom companies from the “Entity List” of the Commerce Department that prohibits American firms from conducting business with malign foreign actors.
In a confirmation hearing, Raimondo would not commit to keeping Chinese telecom giant Huawei and other Chinese firms on the Entity List, stating that it is all “under review.”
In response to this vague answer, GOP Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark) pressed Raimondo in a letter to clarify her views. Several House Republicans also urged the Senate to pause her nomination until she expressed clarity with her positions.
In a written response to the Senate, Raimondo recanted, stating that she sees no reason to remove these Chinese firms in the “Entity List.” However, Cruz’s office also released a video claiming that Biden’s team “as a policy decision, is embracing and getting into bed with China.”
Courting business leaders, allies
China is not waiting around. As the Biden administration focuses on the presidential transition and its corresponding policy reviews, China has already begun launching an influence campaign, as it seeks to endear itself to the U.S. businesses and other American allies that Biden and his top aides are engaging.
On Friday, @SecBlinken had a call with Director Yang Jiechi. The readout from the Office of the State Department’s spokesperson (@StateDeptSPOX) is below. https://t.co/cI3puPJbkN pic.twitter.com/p5tOrqPVd6
— US Taiwan Watch (@ustaiwanwatch) February 6, 2021
In a speech last week, the director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi, insisted that China has “no interest to replace U.S. influence in the world,” or “export its development model or seek ideological confrontation.”
Yang’s speech included various overtures directed at U.S. businesses in what appeared as an attempt to stoke industry opposition to sanctions and trade restraints on China put into place by Trump.
Including more than $350 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, prohibitions on U.S. firms doing business with Chinese telecom and military firms, and a ban on imports of cotton and tomato projects from the Xinjiang region, where Uighur Muslims face persecution; and prohibitions on the U.S. Biden has indicated he will have those penalties in place for now.
The director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party also added, “China will always welcome U.S. business investment in China, and it falls on both sides to provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory environment for both countries.”