.
F

or years, the United States has struggled with creating a meaningful relationship with China, but, more recently, the situation has escalated to an extent that many would consider beyond mendable—in the foreseeable future at least. The way in which President Trump has framed challenges with China during his presidency lends itself to what some may consider ‘anti-China rhetoric’, and his administration’s tariff-war has aggravated Chinese officials. However, no one can disagree that China’s gross human rights violations; its One Belt One Road Initiative; and concerning tech development must be confronted.

In fact, this ‘anti-China rhetoric’ has been adopted, to a less inflammatory degree, by many others—using words like ‘threat’ and ‘aggressive’ to explain the undemocratic behaviors of China. President-elect Joe Biden even referred to Mr. Xi as a 'thug' while on the campaign trail. Perhaps this is one of the few issues where bipartisanship exists.

During the 2020 Halifax International Security Forum this month, Halifax Vice President Robin Shepard issued “A Handbook for Democracies: China v. Democracy, The Greatest Game”. Shepard writes, “China, led by Xi Jinping, is emerging as the most powerful authoritarian state in history. The evidence that it aims to make the wider world safe for authoritarianism has become impossible to ignore.” Impossible to ignore by not only the U.S: the handbook presents a chart proving there has been a worldwide awakening. The percentage of positive responses to a question about China’s influence over the next decade plummeted this year (in comparison to the last eight years). Surely this growing dissent is not something that President-elect Biden, or the U.S. for that matter, can handle alone.

The 2020 presidential race, which was called on November 7th by the Associated Press, was followed by a flood of ‘congratulations’ from leaders all over the world. However, China and Russia were slow to congratulate Biden. “China on Friday became one of the last major countries to congratulate U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to make few changes to U.S. policy in conflicts with Beijing over trade, technology and security.”

The reason for China’s delay was likely not an intentional insult directed at Biden, but instead, a message that they are unapertured because of his number one priority: “beat COVID-19”—which will likely leave U.S.-China policies untouched for months. Another possibility is that it was an effort to censor the democratic process—something China is unaccustomed to. “As Mr. Biden’s victory was called on Sunday morning, all of China’s state media flashed news alerts—about Mr. Xi’s instructions, issued several days ago, for a railroad connecting Sichuan Province to Tibet.”

Although we may not know exactly what China’s leaders think about Biden, it seems to be common consensus that many, including Chinese officials, welcome the indisputable change in tone that the world will bear witness to when Biden steps in to office—regardless of the issue at hand. Zheng Yongnian, a Chinese political scientist, concludes:

“… Trump is a businessman and behaves unpredictably, while Biden takes the elite route and is usually predictable…so Trump is irrationally tough [on China], and Biden is rationally tough.”

In an article released this spring, Biden concurs that the U.S. “…does need to get tough with China,” yet his foreign policy plans that are laid out on his website are anything but tough. “To win the competition for the future against China or anyone else, we must sharpen our innovative edge and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to counter abusive economic practices.” This call for multilateralism mirrors Shepard’s proposal in his handbook—which is outlined in the chapter “Stronger Together.” Although, for Biden it’s not only about uniting democracies and defending against an authoritarian state; it’s also about reclaiming the United States’ position “back at the head of the table”.

Biden’s dream of the U.S. leading again will be one of his biggest challenges. He’s got a long way to go if he wants his kitchen table metaphor realized: ‘no empty chairs’ and the U.S. at its head. Will Biden’s soft and tired rhetoric be enough to confront a global pandemic and return to functional multilateralism? Certainly, the political environment of 2021 will be far more unwelcoming than the one he stepped into as vice president in 2009.

About
Melissa Metos
:
Melissa is currently pursuing a master’s degree in rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University. Her past and present education fosters the study of societal issues through a rhetorical lens, which she explores throughout her articles with Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

A Predictable Route to U.S.-China Relations

November 29, 2020

F

or years, the United States has struggled with creating a meaningful relationship with China, but, more recently, the situation has escalated to an extent that many would consider beyond mendable—in the foreseeable future at least. The way in which President Trump has framed challenges with China during his presidency lends itself to what some may consider ‘anti-China rhetoric’, and his administration’s tariff-war has aggravated Chinese officials. However, no one can disagree that China’s gross human rights violations; its One Belt One Road Initiative; and concerning tech development must be confronted.

In fact, this ‘anti-China rhetoric’ has been adopted, to a less inflammatory degree, by many others—using words like ‘threat’ and ‘aggressive’ to explain the undemocratic behaviors of China. President-elect Joe Biden even referred to Mr. Xi as a 'thug' while on the campaign trail. Perhaps this is one of the few issues where bipartisanship exists.

During the 2020 Halifax International Security Forum this month, Halifax Vice President Robin Shepard issued “A Handbook for Democracies: China v. Democracy, The Greatest Game”. Shepard writes, “China, led by Xi Jinping, is emerging as the most powerful authoritarian state in history. The evidence that it aims to make the wider world safe for authoritarianism has become impossible to ignore.” Impossible to ignore by not only the U.S: the handbook presents a chart proving there has been a worldwide awakening. The percentage of positive responses to a question about China’s influence over the next decade plummeted this year (in comparison to the last eight years). Surely this growing dissent is not something that President-elect Biden, or the U.S. for that matter, can handle alone.

The 2020 presidential race, which was called on November 7th by the Associated Press, was followed by a flood of ‘congratulations’ from leaders all over the world. However, China and Russia were slow to congratulate Biden. “China on Friday became one of the last major countries to congratulate U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to make few changes to U.S. policy in conflicts with Beijing over trade, technology and security.”

The reason for China’s delay was likely not an intentional insult directed at Biden, but instead, a message that they are unapertured because of his number one priority: “beat COVID-19”—which will likely leave U.S.-China policies untouched for months. Another possibility is that it was an effort to censor the democratic process—something China is unaccustomed to. “As Mr. Biden’s victory was called on Sunday morning, all of China’s state media flashed news alerts—about Mr. Xi’s instructions, issued several days ago, for a railroad connecting Sichuan Province to Tibet.”

Although we may not know exactly what China’s leaders think about Biden, it seems to be common consensus that many, including Chinese officials, welcome the indisputable change in tone that the world will bear witness to when Biden steps in to office—regardless of the issue at hand. Zheng Yongnian, a Chinese political scientist, concludes:

“… Trump is a businessman and behaves unpredictably, while Biden takes the elite route and is usually predictable…so Trump is irrationally tough [on China], and Biden is rationally tough.”

In an article released this spring, Biden concurs that the U.S. “…does need to get tough with China,” yet his foreign policy plans that are laid out on his website are anything but tough. “To win the competition for the future against China or anyone else, we must sharpen our innovative edge and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to counter abusive economic practices.” This call for multilateralism mirrors Shepard’s proposal in his handbook—which is outlined in the chapter “Stronger Together.” Although, for Biden it’s not only about uniting democracies and defending against an authoritarian state; it’s also about reclaiming the United States’ position “back at the head of the table”.

Biden’s dream of the U.S. leading again will be one of his biggest challenges. He’s got a long way to go if he wants his kitchen table metaphor realized: ‘no empty chairs’ and the U.S. at its head. Will Biden’s soft and tired rhetoric be enough to confront a global pandemic and return to functional multilateralism? Certainly, the political environment of 2021 will be far more unwelcoming than the one he stepped into as vice president in 2009.

About
Melissa Metos
:
Melissa is currently pursuing a master’s degree in rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University. Her past and present education fosters the study of societal issues through a rhetorical lens, which she explores throughout her articles with Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.