A group of Chinese foreign policy scholars said at a seminar reviewing President Biden’s first 100 days in office that they have seen “more continuity” than expected between the Trump administration and the Biden administration with respect to China policy.
“Judging from Biden’s first 100 days, there is more continuity than the changes that we expected. The Biden administration also has a more focused and systematic approach,” said Ni Feng, head of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, according to The South China Morning Post.
US-China relations have sunk to their lowest point in decades thanks to the Trump administration’s hostile policies. Biden has continued the trend and has made it clear confronting Beijing is a top foreign policy priority. In his first address to Congress last month, Biden said the US was in competition with China to “win the 21st century.”
The state of US-China relations was put on display during in-person talks between the top diplomats of the two countries that were held in Alaska in March. The meeting quickly fell apart after Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of threatening the “rules-based order.” While the talks didn’t appear to go well, Ni said “it’s better to fight in a face-to-face meeting than to fight without any chance of a meeting.”
Jia Qingguo, a professor with Peking University’s School of International Studies, said the US and China would be better off pursuing back-channel talks that are out of the public eye. “The best way is to use ‘track two’ [informal dialogue] and private discussions first to reach consensus before turning to public negotiations – that way there’s a high chance of getting things done,” Jia said.
The scholars concluded that even though Biden was continuing the hostile policies, it was better to have a “rational” US president rather than a “reckless” one, which is how they viewed Trump. But Biden’s predictability and what the scholars called a more “focused” approach will help the US in one of its main strategies to counter Beijing, which is boosting military cooperation with countries in the region.
The Trump administration started this effort by reviving the Quad, an informal grouping that consists of the US, India, Japan, and Australia, that is seen as a possible foundation for a NATO-style alliance in Asia. Biden picked up on this effort and held the first-ever summit between Quad leaders in March.
It’s no mystery that Biden wants to militarize Asia by building an alliance similar to NATO, as he said it himself in his congressional address. He said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US “will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific just as we do with NATO in Europe.”
The Trump administration increased US military activity in areas like the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Beijing said it has escalated even more since Biden came into office. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said operations had increased by more than 20 percent for US warships and 40 percent for military aircraft in waters claimed by Beijing.
Besides the increase in military activity, Biden has kept in place Trump’s tariffs and investment restrictions. The Biden administration is also boosting ties between US and Taiwanese officials under the framework of legislation signed into law by Trump.