What Will Biden’s Policies Be Towards China, India and North Korea?
Thursday, January 21, 2021
by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
Joe Biden became the 46th President of the U.S. yesterday. If one observes the people he brought into his team, it is quite clear which direction his administration’s foreign policy will pursue towards Asia, especially China, India and North Korea.
The new Secretary of State is Antony John Blinken. He advocates restraining China and Russia. Blinken comes from a Jewish family and is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor, so it is likely that the new Secretary of State will continue Trump’s radically pro-Israel policy in the Middle East. In light of Israel’s improved relations with the Arab World, Biden promised that one of his first actions as president will be to cancel Trump’s order that prevented citizens from certain Muslim countries from entering the U.S. However, away from the Middle East and towards East Asia, Blinken will be one of the loudest voices in opposing Beijing.
Jake Sullivan will serve as Biden’s National Security Advisor. Recently, he stated that it is necessary to sit down and settle economic disagreements that Washington currently has with Beijing, thus having different ideas to Blinken regarding Washington’s China policy.
Katherine Tai will be the chief trade counsel for the U.S., but unlike Blinken, few believe that the official will turn the U.S.-China trade war into a lasting peace. Although Tai’s parents were born in mainland China, they grew up in Taiwan before migrating to the U.S., where she was born. Chinese-Americans are renowned for being hostile towards the communist government in Beijing, and it is expected that she also has such hostilities.
A key figure in U.S. foreign policy towards China is Kurt Campbell. During the period of 2009-2013, he served as Assistant Secretary of State in charge of East Asia and Pacific Affairs. He is considered the brain behind President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy and is the author of “The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia.” Campbell said last year that the Trump administrations Beijing policy did a lot of damage to the U.S.
As such, experts knowledgeable about China will be in charge of the most important areas of Washington’s foreign policy towards Asia. This effectively means that there will still be obstacles in any attempt to improve relations between Washington and Beijing, particularly in the struggle for world leadership, bilateral trade imbalances, the exchange rate, free navigation in the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. But perhaps putting pressure on Beijing on these issues will be promoted more subtly and diplomatically with less loud statements in front of the press that became the norm in the Trump administration.
In relations with China, Biden wants to do what Trump failed in – bringing together a strong anti-China coalition from various countries. In fact, Trump only found very few partners in this endeavour. It is more likely that the White House will expand and focus on other countries wanting to be hostile towards China or coordinate those who already are. In Southeast Asia, such countries could be Vietnam and the Philippines; in South Asia it is India; in Oceania it is Australia; while in East Asia it is Japan and could be South Korea. The struggle will be for all these countries to more closely coordinate with each other.
It seems that under Biden the bilateral relations between Washington and New Delhi will accelerate, with an aim against China and not necessarily Russia. Vice President Kamala Harris’ maternal ancestry is from south India, and in addition to her, another 20 people of Indian descent will work in the Biden administration. Therefore, it is unlikely that New Delhi is worried that their bilateral relations with Washington will deteriorate.
Although Trump made limited advance with North Korea, it is expected that Biden will not build on the foundations made by the former president. The leaders of the two countries have already exchanged verbals against each other, with Biden calling Kim Jong-un a “ruthless” and “murderous dictator.” The North Korean leader responded by calling the American President a “rabid dog.”
But Kim was right when speaking at the 8th Congress of the Korean Workers Party when he said “no matter who is in power in the U.S., the true nature of the U.S. and its fundamental policies towards North Korea never change.” Kim also vowed to expand ties with “anti-imperialist, independent forces.” He added that “Our foreign political activities should be focused and redirected on subduing the U.S., our biggest enemy and main obstacle to our innovated development.” There is little chance that Washington and Pyongyang will reconcile under Biden.
It is also worth noting that the statement by the North Korean leader is rather accurate. His comments are also relevant in assessing U.S. foreign policy in other directions, including China. It is likely that the Biden administration will escalate tensions with North Korea, continue a pressure campaign against China but with a nicer demeanor, and turn India into a strategic partner aimed against Beijing.
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