No major changes in Washington’s China policy are expected, former minister of foreign affairs Chen Chien-jen (程建人) and academics said yesterday, one day after US President Joe Biden assumed office.
Biden highlighted unity at his inauguration speech, saying: “Together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness.”
However he was more reticent about the direction of US foreign policy.
“We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again … and we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden said.
Referring to Biden’s speech, Chen said that Biden gave an address focused on healing social division, and pledged to combat COVID-19, inequality and racial discrimination.
In light of these challenges, the Biden administration is unlikely to make significant adjustments to the US’ China policy of the past four years, he said.
Biden’s long political career suggests that he is “a steady statesman,” while former US president Donald Trump is a “stubborn businessman,” Chen said.
“Biden is an expert in international relations. He will not be dictated by Trump’s precedents,” Chen said.
When serving as vice president in then-US president Barack Obama’s administration, Biden showed an understanding for the threat that China increasingly posed to the US, Chen said.
Biden is a witness to Obama’s “Asian pivot,” he said.
However, some changes are expected, Chen said.
For example, the US and China would probably not trade continuous insults, he said, referring to former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s spat with China, which Chen said was “unprecedented in diplomatic history.”
Biden could attempt to reduce US-China tensions by stepping back on the pace of arms sales and possibly returning to a traditional policy position regarding Taiwan, he said.
The Biden administration would likely prioritize domestic issues — including the COVID-19 pandemic and reviving the US economy — over international relations, said Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a professor emeritus at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of East Asia Studies.
After facing the immediate challenges, Biden would focus on “the colossal task of dealing with the internal social divisions” of the US, Ding said.
Biden’s pledge to repair alliances is a reference to the immense damage to relationship with US allies inflicted by Trump, he said.
Trump focused on announcing the withdrawal of US troops as a threat under his “America first” policy, he said, adding that this led to disputes with leaders of US allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Repairing those relationships would be difficult for Biden, Ding said.
Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that he expects the new US administration to champion the democratic values highlighted in Biden’s speech, domestically and internationally.
Biden has nominated China-critical officials to head the big five US government agencies, the departments of defense, state and homeland security, as well as the CIA and the US Federal Reserve, he said.
Citing Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, in his confirmation hearing in the US Senate, Su said that the Biden team is committed to bolstering Taiwan’s self-defense under the Taiwan Relations Act and the Taiwan Assurance Act.
The Biden administration would also push for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, Su cited Blinken as saying adding that this would continue to challenge Beijing.
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