Foreign Policy

Biden warns China that the United States is ‘not for turning’

The US president makes it clear that Beijing’s policy is challenging American ‘security, prosperity and values’

It sounds like a succession of tweets from Donald Trump. But the stark warning from Joe Biden’s administration means that the new US president is ‘not for turning’ when it comes to China.

Drowning out Xi Jinping’s call to world leaders to strengthen “policy” issues, he made it clear Washington and Beijing were direct rivals on the world stage.

The difference between his predecessor is that Biden aims to coordinate his plan with international allies.

His policy outline came just hours after Chinese President Xi delivered a video address at the World Economic Forum.

“We should build an open world economy … discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems, and takedown barriers to trade, investment and technological exchanges,” he said at the virtual gathering, reminding the audience of the Donald Trump “America First” era.

The facts:

  • US security, prosperity and values are being challenged by China’s growing authoritarianism. 
  • A “comprehensive strategy” will be rolled out after consultation with international allies and partners.
  • Washington will unveil a “systematic approach” to stop China from using US technology to help Beijing’s military buildup.
  • Xi’s government will be held accountable for its unfair and illegal trade practices.

What was said:What we’ve seen over the last few years is that China’s growing more authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad, and Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity and values in significant ways that require a new US approach. We want to approach this with strategic patience,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a media briefing in Washington.

Reaction to the news: The briefing had hardly finished when Beijing announced that it planned to conduct naval exercises in the South China Sea later this week. Partly to counter a “freedom of the seas” operations by the US carrier group led by the Theodore Roosevelt, it still flies in the face of Xi’s “policy coordination” mantra.

China Factor comment: Plans were already underway last year to beef up the US Indo-Pacific fleet to challenge China’s growing military might in the region. Expect that to be accelerated. Up to US$3 trillion of trade traverses through the South China Sea, which Xi’s government appears determined to dominate. Tiny islands and even sand bars have been turned into a chain of PLA naval bases. Beijing has even claimed vast areas of the 1.3 million-square-mile waters as its “sovereign territory,” trampling on the international rights of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

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