Atmosphere between China and the US still thick with suspicion

Biden’s White House has dialed down the rhetoric but Beijing appears in no mood to compromise

Nothing really has changed in the relationship between China and the United States. 

The rhetoric has been dialed down since Donald Trump left the White House, but the atmosphere is still thick with suspicion.

President Joe Biden has made it clear that working with like-minded democracies will be the cornerstone of his strategy.

“I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We are going to focus on the international rules of the road,” Biden said during a CBS interview.

“We need not have a conflict [with China] but there is going to be extreme competition,” he added.

The facts:

  • Biden appears to be in no rush for a telephone chat with China’s President Xi Jinping.
  • The two have met during his time as vice-president in the Obama era.
  • Biden has condemned Beijing for human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.
  • His Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described the violations as “deeply” disturbing.
  • Blinken has also taken China to task over increased activity in the Taiwan Strait and the militarization of the South China Sea.

What Biden said: “We will confront China’s economic abuses. “I know [Xi] pretty well. He’s very bright and he’s very tough, [but] he doesn’t have a democratic … bone in his body.”

Reaction to the news: “Priority should be given to enhancing mutual respect between the two sides. It is hoped that China and the United States can respect each other’s social systems and development paths … and adhere to the international norms of non-interference in internal affairs,” the Xinhua News Agency, the official voice of China’s ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial ahead of Chinese New Year.

China Factor comment: White House policy has started to take shape in the past few weeks with key statements from Blinken at the State Department and his boss Biden. But with Beijing’s new assertive strategy firmly in place, potential diplomatic “confrontation” lurks around every corner.