Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
Biden’s China policy as of January 19, 2022
It will be one year anniversary for Biden’s presidency tomorrow. Biden held a rare live news conference at the White House today. Of course, the COVID-19 Pandemic, especially the Omicron variant, is a major issue. Another pressing issue is the high inflation rate. Biden answered many relevant questions and claimed that he has done his best and better days will be here soon. On the foreign policy front, the US is consumed by the potential Russia-Ukraine conflict as Secretary Blinken is visiting Ukraine today and will meet with his Russian counterpart soon. From Biden’s perspective, Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent, and the US is threatening Russia with “unbearable economic sanctions.” But it is not clear at all what is Putin’s game plan and goal.
The Russia-Ukraine stand-off has caused a man-made natural gas crisis in Europe and skyrocketing global crude oil price resulting high gasoline price in the USA. It is inflationary and impact the global economy. Under Biden, US-China relation has stabilized but not improving. A main reason is that Biden Administration has not revealed his China strategy yet, after his in charge for one year. The following section is an excerpt of an interview of Derek Chollet, Counselor of State Department with MSN: Michael Morell’s Intelligence Matters program.
MICHAEL MORELL: OK, maybe the the biggest long-term issue here: China. And I could ask a thousand questions, right? We could talk for days about this. But I really want to boil it down to two.
And the first one is what does the President, what does the Secretary see as the threat or the challenge in China’s rise? In other words, why should the average American citizen care about this? How does this impact them?
DEREK CHOLLET: Well, I mean, you’ve seen it, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s supply chains, whether it’s our changing climate, whether it’s our security interests, that China’s rise is impacting all of those and many, many more areas and not necessarily in positive ways.
And so, China – there’s nothing inherent about China’s rise that means that it has to be a confrontational relationship with the United States. China is, as you know better than I, is choosing to define their rise in ways that are confrontational, increasingly confrontational with the United States and our partners. And as many of the rules of the 21st century are being written, particularly in the new technology space, global economy, China is playing in a way where it wants to write the rules in its favor and not ours. And that matters.
Now there are going to be issues where we want to work with China, whether it’s changing climate, whether, obviously, global health – it would be great if we could work with China on global health; they’ve been less willing to do so than we have – which kind of illustrates that the US-China relationship is really complex.
I mean, it’s hard to put it on a bumper sticker. If you tried, you’d really need a really long bumper, because there are elements of the relationship that are confrontational, no question about it. There are elements that are competitive and we are more than happy and willing and look forward to the competition with China as long as we’re all playing by the same rules. And then there’s going to be elements of the relationship that are confrontational.
MICHAEL MORELL: So the second question is, do you guys have a strategy for dealing with China or are you still working on the strategy? Do you have a set of objectives for what you want the US-China relationship to look like in the long term? Do you have a plan for achieving that? And the reason I ask is because I haven’t seen the president give a speech or the secretary give a speech and say, “Here’s our strategy.” So where are we on that?
DEREK CHOLLET: Yeah. So there’s been a lot of discussion of this over the last year. Obviously, a lot of thought went into this during the president’s campaign and then before he took office. But now that we’ve been in office and sort of dealing with the inbox and thinking through what the possibilities are, a lot of thought going into strategy. Very much the intent is, the understanding is — because it’s important, we’re going to be talking about this more publicly in the coming months.
Clearly, it’s very important for the American people, for the rest of the world, for our allies, for the Chinese to understand what our perspective is and what guardrails we want to put on the relationship and what our hopes are and what our concerns are.
So we have worked very hard, and as you know, Michael, well, it’s hard to do this often in a government where the urgent pushes out the important to have a lot of strategic discussions internally at the highest levels at all about what we are trying to achieve, what’s realistic, what tools we have, what could we do differently? What have we inherited that actually works and we shouldn’t try to fix it because it’s working fine?
So I expect that – we’re well aware we’re at one of those moments in history where it’s very important – obviously the president, secretary, all of us – to be articulating this strategy publicly. And that’s going to be something that folks will be seeing in the coming year.
It is puzzling and uncomforting to note that in one statement that “we’re going to be talking about this more publicly in the coming months” and another statement that “And that’s going to be something that folks will be seeing in the coming year.”
It is puzzling because we do not know why the process of policy making must take so long. What is the main problem, is the US or China responsible? The US-China relation is often touted as the most significant global relation as it impacts on the world peace and war. The Trump administration engaged China and finalized the US-China Phase-One Agreement which expired on December 31, 2021. It is debatable that the Phase-One Agreement with China is worth the paper that both sides signed. It may not be Biden’s approach on international trade, but so far there is no guideline from Biden on what to do next with China. The business community would prefer the free market and do the business without any government interference.