As China continues to expand its in- fluence in the region, India must navigate a delicate bal- ance between diplomacy and safeguarding its national security interests.
US President Joe Biden finds himself in a particularly galling situation regarding his administration’s China policy. Because it’s not just his political foes who are panning his handling of a rampant Beijing; the searing criticism is coming from the simpatico.
Perhaps the perils of giving into the left cabal in the Democratic Party have come to bite Mr Biden in the fleshy parts. For, he is being accused by pro-establishment policy makers, sections of the media, and party lawmakers of effectively following what has been derisively described as a ‘Trump Lite’ approach towards China that continues, according to them, to be destructive and unimaginative.
The tough line on China being followed by Mr Biden, thankfully sans the bombast of his predecessor, is justified by his officials as one that has strong bi-partisan support. According to foreign policy expert Jeffrey A. Bader, when asked to distinguish its China strategy from that of its predecessor’s, the Biden Administration says it favours a multilateral approach of rallying allies, in contrast to the unilateralism of the America First practitioners. “Yet, it is intellectual laziness to justify policy on the basis of bipartisanship rather than formulate a (new) one. In no other instance, whether it’s US policy toward Iran, Ukraine and Russia, or EU-NATO, has the administration sought to duplicate Trump’s policy,” he writes.
Scholars such as Mr Bader quote opinion polls to assert that Democrats do not have a visceral dislike of China which Republicans do and argue that in taking an uncompromising stand, President Biden is guilty of continuing to pursue a Trump-era policy under the guise of bi-partisanship at the expense of grassroots Democratic views. What these critics from within fail to recognise is that politicians usually have their ear to the ground and whatever opinion polls may claim, Mr Biden is attempting to keep the Democrats from lurching to the left when it comes to China.
On the substantive issues, he has done well to jettison the incendiary and provocative language of his predecessor while continuing to insist that meaningful cooperation, as opposed to transactional economic and trade ties, with Beijing would be possible only if there are fundamental changes in its hegemonic approach and undemocratic state apparatus.
Further, by recognising and calling out the Chinese desire for domination and gearing up international diplomacy including strengthening the Quad, launching AUKUS, doubling down on its East Asia security alliance, and keeping its strategic focus on the Asia-Pacific to ensure the Communist Party of China doesn’t have a free run, Washington feels it is on the right track.
The strategy of “decoupling” from China by continuing a high tariff regime, validating the FBI’s sharp focus on Chinese and Chinese-Americans conducting research at American universities especially in sensitive dual-use technologies, and closing down various exchange programmes including with the Centre for Disease Control given the data-fudging by the Chinese which was blatant during the coronavirus pandemic, are apt too. Crucially, President Biden has indicated that acceptance of the One-China Policy is not sacrosanct given the aggressive moves by Beijing against Taiwan. Trump Lite or not, this is a policy approach that needs to be supported by all sensible sections of the American establishment.