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Fostering the Emerging Consensus About the China Challenge

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Although laden with former Obama administration officials—starting with President Biden himself, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan—the Biden administration foreign policy team has embraced a decidedly harder line than the previous Democratic White House on the nation’s top foreign policy challenge. They could lead more effectively by expanding their circle of partners at home.

Acknowledging the role that the Trump administration played in identifying and addressing the threat the Chinese Communist Party presents to the free and open international order would signal that the Biden administration intends to act energetically on its welcome words and work diligently across the U.S. political divide to counter Beijing’s authoritarian aims.

In response to China’s rise, the Obama administration effected a “pivot to Asia.” This shift recognized the need for America, according to University of Michigan professor Kenneth Lieberthal, “to play a leadership role in Asia for decades to come.” In formal White House remarks shortly after his inauguration, President Biden went considerably further. Following in the footsteps of the Trump administration, Biden proclaimed the People’s Republic of China “our most serious competitor” while emphasizing “the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States.” Biden promised to “confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.”

While distancing itself from Trump administration policies in myriad ways, the current administration has maintained or extended Trump sanctions and tariffs on China. It has taken up where the Trump administration left off in criticizing Beijing’s unfair trade practices and massive criminal theft of intellectual property. And, in the wake of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s January 2021 determination that China is committing crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the new administration has decried China’s “horrendous human right abuses.” At the United Nations on Tuesday, Biden stopped short of mentioning China, but it is likely that the president had Beijing in mind while reaffirming America’s dedication to the rights inherent in all persons, committing the United States to cooperating with partners and the private sector to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure in developing countries, and pledging U.S. readiness to oppose authoritarian powers that seek to extend their influence.

The Biden administration’s stance is more in keeping with that of the Trump administration than with that of any of its other predecessors in the........

© RealClearPolitics

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