Whether Trump or Biden, US will get tough on China

In fact, China has more cause for concern given that President-elect Biden is a sophisticated and seasoned politician and will try to unite American allies against China.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not believe in playing by the rules of a law-based international order and this is detrimental to the United States’ national interests.  There is wide bipartisan support to counter the belligerent action of the CCP and therefore, it can be assumed that the incoming Biden administration will follow a hardline path similar to that of the Trump administration, albeit without the bluster and pugnacity.  In fact, China has more cause for concern given that President-elect Biden is a sophisticated and seasoned politician and will try to unite American allies against China.  By Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade

“No matter if they have five eyes or 10 eyes, if they dare to harm China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, they should beware of their eyes being poked and blinded,” CCP wolf warrior spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in reference to the recent Five Eyes alliance’s statement calling for China to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy.

In mid-November, Hong Kong expelled four opposition pro-democracy lawmakers after Beijing passed a resolution giving the city broad new power to quash dissent, effectively sounding the death knell for people’s freedom to elect their representatives.  In protest, all elected pro-democracy lawmakers announced their resignation.  

Foreign ministers from the Five Eyes alliance, an intelligence-sharing group comprising the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, said the move is a clear breach of a legally-binding commitment, referring to the 1984 Sino-British legal agreement that guarantees Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047.

In another recent antagonistic incident, the CCP has in October, completed the construction of a village in territory also claimed by Bhutan, a tactic similar to those at the disputed border with India and disputed waters at South China Sea.  Previously, the Chinese military also had a fatal clash with Indian forces at the disputed border which left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.  The Chinese authority did not comment on whether there are any casualties on the Chinese side.

In recent years, as China rises to the status of a global superpower, the CCP is also willing to flaunt military and economic prowess to intimidate other countries and extend their geopolitical influence.  The CCP will follow international rules and norms when they are in its interest, and disregard them when the circumstances suit it.

Domestically, the CCP is using this narrative to consolidate their power and gather support for the mandate to rule.  Despite outward appearances of capitalism at play, the Chinese government is fundamentally a communist regime whose values are at odds with those of democracies.  

Striking at CCP’s Achilles heel

In a bid to counter China’s rising influence and in part to penalize the CCP for its initial coverup of the pandemic, President Trump has made cultivating closer ties with Taiwan one of his major policies.  He has increased weapon sales, worth billions of dollars, to Taiwan’s military, sent senior emissaries Health Secretary Alex Azar to Taipei in August, followed by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September, and in the most obvious sign of challenge yet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said during a recent interview that “Taiwan has not been a part of China”.

Unlike President Trump’s unilateralism and retreat from global leadership, which leaves a vacuum for China to exploit, President-elect Biden will return the US to its global leadership role for a world order based on democracy, multilateralism, alliance-building and diplomatic engagement.  

This is a cause of concern for the CCP as it has traditionally been wary and sensitive to any groups or alliances that it perceives to be formed to contain China’s rise.  More practically, such US-led coalitions, with concerted effort and combined resources, can more effectively counter the CCP’s increasingly aggressive behavior on the global stage.

In a warning shot to the CCP, President-elect Biden said “the US should get tough with China” and called Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CCP, a thug.  Similarly, national security adviser nominee Jake Sullivan said that “China will be put on notice” and under the new administration, there will be a restoration of alliances and partnerships so that the US “will be able to rally the rest of the world behind us on key foreign policy and national security issues”.

An indication of the overall strategy and by extension, the kind of precise measures we can expect to see from the Biden administration to strike at the CCP’s Achilles heel, can be glean from Sullivan’s ambition.  He wanted to “to rally our allies to combat corruption and kleptocracy, and to hold systems of authoritarian capitalism accountable for greater transparency and participation in a rules-based system.”

Image credit: Alex Gakos / Shutterstock.com

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Lee Kok Leong

Lee Kok Leong

Kok Leong, executive editor, has overall editorial responsibility for the direction and focus of Maritime Fairtrade. He has two decades of working experiences, including holding senior regional roles in business-to-business (B2B) print and online publications. He enjoys his work as a journalist, and regards it as a calling.

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