Former vice president Joe Biden has been victorious in his election as the 46th US president, defeating his opponent, the former US President Donald Trump, in a heated electoral race. While the president-elect is yet to be officially sworn to office, a difficult presidency awaits him. Joe Biden’s precedent has left the country in an arduous corner in terms of both internal as well as foreign affairs.
Especially tumultuous is the US-China relationship, which has deteriorated further under Trump’s administration. As the world looks on to the United States, waiting for its next move, an excellent opportunity remains for the US to redeem itself in the eyes of the international community. There are many avenues where work can be done to improve relations with China.
Firstly, Biden will have to undo the damage done by Trump’s racist accusations regarding the spread of Covid-19 by China. It is vital that the US government acknowledges its own shortcomings regarding the spread of the virus and stops deflecting blame where it is due. It is unbecoming of the world’s greatest powers to engage in banter regarding the origin of the disease when instead they must join forces to combat it.
Information and technical expertise must be shared in order to create and test the Covid-19 vaccine. Both countries must also have the foresight to plan for the global production and distribution of the vaccine, as suggested by Thomas J. Christensen, a foreign policy expert. Both countries must also be ready to assist the weaker nations in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in order to do this, the US needs to step up and do more to reduce cases at home.
Jeffrey A. Bader at the John L. Thornton China Center believes that China must be treated as a strategic competitor and not an enemy under the new Biden administration. He states that ideological differences must be cast aside in favor of a bilateral partnership. For this, it is vital that the US re-establishes itself politically, socially, and economically in order to regain its position in the international forum. Only after this will multilateral dialogues regarding China’s human rights violations be possible in the presence of US allies and other countries.
Policymakers have also suggested that the Sino-US relationship can be fixed with the help of America’s European allies. There are many avenues where the interests of both countries align. Economic areas where both can work include establishing state subsidies that promote greater transparency, ensuring that all parties have equal market access, and push to reform the WTO.
On the technological front, much is possible; e.g., with the rise of 5G technology, it is vital that developing approaches are shared. There is greater adherence to international data protection laws by all parties involved. The US must, therefore, also address Europe’s concerns regarding technological dominance by the US itself.
While significant progress has not been made to tackle climate change, Biden’s administration has offered tempting promises. Joe Biden has stated that one of his first presidential orders will include the US’s re-joining in the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation that Donald Trump withdrew from during his term in office. However, policymakers believe that Biden needs to ensure that climate change mitigation is a primary principle of national security rather than an empty promise.
It is also important for the US to adapt to top-down leadership in China and ensure that routine leader-level meetings are held. This is possible only when the US stops demonizing China’s political structure based on ideological differences. The aim must be to build a bilateral dialogue system that must be employed to address bilateral issues. On such a channel, dialogue regarding international security, economics, climate change, human rights and, other global issues will be possible.
There must, therefore, be a strategic shift in how the US views China. Many biases must be re-visited and re-addressed in order for both countries to sustain meaningful diplomatic relationships in the long-term. It is also clear that this is an effort which the Biden administration must start at home. Foremost, it is necessary to shut down the “China Initiative” created by the US Department of Justice, which cracks down at Chinese scholars and students.
The new administration needs to re-establish its commitment to diplomacy, and the first step is to regain the trust of both the Chinese elite and the public. Biden must deliver what he promised in his election campaign to restore America.