March 9, 2021

Biden and China: Administration Rethinks Relations

The new administration has given few concrete details about how it will put its strategy into practice, including whether it will implement the many China-related executive orders Mr. Trump introduced, like new restrictions on investments in Chinese companies with ties to the military and bans on Chinese-owned apps, like TikTok, WeChat and Alipay. Instead, the administration has said it would carry out a comprehensive review of Mr. Trump’s tariffs, export controls and other restrictions before making decisions.

Another uncertainty is how Mr. Biden and his team will handle Mr. Trump’s initial trade deal with China given that Beijing continues to fall short of its promise to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in American products. The administration may face the choice of using the deal’s enforcement mechanisms — which include consultations and more tariffs for Chinese products — or scrapping the agreement altogether.

Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser in Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Biden administration had clear foreign policy goals and a large toolbox of measures at its disposal, but had not yet “figured out how to merge strategy and tactics.”

On American competitiveness with China, “there’s a much larger conversation that needs to be had,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Are they going to be willing to engage in that conversation and do that thorough analysis and come up with something new? Or are they going to be fearful of political backlash and pull their punches?”

Mr. Biden’s plan to engage more closely with U.S. allies to put pressure on China may also be easier said than done.

In an interview in January, shortly before he left office, Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s top trade official, pointed to a recent investment agreement the European Union signed with China, against the wishes of the Biden administration, as “the first piece of evidence” that such multilateral cooperation would be difficult.

Chinese officials are already strengthening ties with U.S. allies like New Zealand and South Korea in an effort “to divide and conquer,” Ms. Cutler said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/business/economy/biden-china.html

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