20th January 2021, Joe Biden took over the White House from Donald Trump. Both of them belong to two different political parties, that is, the democratic party and the republican party respectively. In general when the leadership of USA goes from the hands of republicans to democrats or vice – versa, it has been seen that whenever the presidency of USA changes, the policy of the country undergoes certain subtle changes in different areas. For example the republicans have conservative thoughts towards trade and the democrats have a bit of a liberal inclining towards the matters of environmental concerns.
Now, since the office of the president has undergone another such change. The country is speculating what the new administration’s policies will be like, especially towards China. Will Joe Biden continue to be on the stance that was taken by the Trump administration or he would revert back to the times when democratic party was in power that is, going back to the policies formulated by the Obama administration? More importantly will the economic and military rise of China and it’s growing hegemony in the Indo – Pacific region impact the policy decisions of the Biden administration?
Trump had a very transactional approach towards China. He believed that China was taking unfair advantage of the US in trade related aspects due to America’s open market practices. To counter this he imposed several trade related sanctions on China during the four years of his term. Now the question arises that whether Joe Biden should treat China as a competitor or as an adversary? If China is treated as a competitor, then equal talks between China and US will have to take place and if China is treated as an adversary then it would require a bit more economic and security posturing. Answer is in the conclusion of this article. But first we should take a look at some aspects of US as well as China in respective regions. Below are the ramifications, if the situation continues:
- Right now the civil society of the country is divided between the conservatives and the liberals. The situation is such that the conservatives are not even ready to believe that Donald Trump has actually lost the elections and Joe Biden is their new President. They are still in the bubble that the elections were rigged. This is the reason which led to the infamous Capitol Hill siege. But there is one issue still alive that garners bipartisan support of both, the conservatives and the liberals, and that issue is the issue of China. The whole country believes that standing up against China is very important as China is the only nation which can openly challenge the world leadership of the US. Trump understood this very well and hence his tough China policy was his most consequential and constructive foreign policy legacy. If Joe Biden refrains from pursuing the same stance as Donald Trump, then the decrease in the hegemonic power of America is very certain and inexorable.
- The Indo – Pacific region which includes India, China, Japan, Australia and all the small South – East Asian countries is the world’s biggest global economic hub and a geopolitical hotspot. And this region is the central piece of China’s world domination strategy. This region has immense importance in global politics and China is trying hard to reshape the region according to its interests. This reshaping concept can be evidently seen in the recent activities of China in the region, be it the occupancy of the South – China sea, challenging the sovereignty of Vietnam by its activities in the Spark – lee and Paracel islands, sending fighter jets in the air space of Vietnam or be the infrastructure developments in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and also in the disputed territory with India for it’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China’s aggressive expansionism in the region can be witnessed openly in India where it has built a whole village in the state of Arunachal Pradesh which belongs to India and PLA’s multiple confrontations with the India army as the PLA is forcibly trying to push China’s borders inside the Union Territory of Ladakh which also belongs to India.
- Now, Biden did not use the term “Indo – Pacific” anywhere in his speeches up until he won the elections. And when he did use the term, he used the phrase “secure and prosperous” instead of “free and open”. This subtle play of words by Mr. President can have long lasting implications. Where the phrase, “free and open” implied a rule based democratic order, the phrase, “secure and prosperous” shows a possibility of the region being led by an autocratic and communist power like China. China is in the impression and it also wants to revise the world order as it is and supplant the US as the region’s hegemonic identity. More worrying is the fact that Joe Biden has shown inclination towards resetting relations with China and if this is done it will be highly in favour of China for its hegemonic ambitions and the US will eventually be at a great loss.
- As it is known by all, that no impactful company is allowed to do business in China, be it google, facebook, Uber or any other big names. On the other hand, all Chinese companies can operate and expand their businesses anywhere in the world without any restrictions. To counter this, the Trump administration blacklisted many Chinese companies in the US citing their close relations with the Chinese army or the Communist party in power there. Trump’s policy with China was beyond the charades of human rights and trade relations. It sent a message to the world that China is an expansionist and predatory communist state which needs to be restrained as it does not believes in the rule of law.
If Biden does not goes forward with the fact that the economic decoupling of China is needed and treats China as a competitor rather than an advisor. China’s ambitions will be boosted in the Indo – Pacific which will make Taiwan the next big target for China.
For now, Biden administration should focus on keeping the relations with China in the same conditions as they were left by Donald Trump. In order to solidify its hegemonic stand in the Indo – Pacific and in the whole world, US should support countries like India, Taiwan and Vietnam which are being traumatised by the expansionist atrocities of China in the region. China already has an ally in the region, and that is Pakistan. It is time for the US to make its own allies which are the democracies in the region suppressed by China.