A New Pivot to Asia? The U.S. Foreign Policy Under Joseph Biden

China has been a great challenger to the United States since World War II (Mohan 2021). Nowadays, topics like human rights violations, economic interest, and climate change are the biggest challenges to handle. President-elect sees China as a competitor, just like Donald Trump has called it (Al Jazeera 2021). Biden has clearly stated the rule of the game if China will play by international norms, Washington is willing to cooperate with Beijing, which expects is respect (Culver 2020).

It is readily apparent that the President set a target to rebuild and strengthen the relationships with Asian allies, which have been hampered by caused tension of Donald Trump’s administration. There will be no substantial shift in the attitude regarding the global trade conditions towards China and all the Asian countries that have been affected by the tariff war measures implemented by the former administration. Joe Biden plans to make more beneficial economic decisions taking the American people’s interests into account. China has a clear vision to become the economic leader, just like the U.S does (Rakhmat 2020). Talking about technology and trade, Trump has imposed high tariffs on Chinese products and accused China of stealing American technologies, but China denies all the allegations. Assumingly, President Biden will be formidable on economic and trade; he wants to stop the financial abuses by holding China accountable for “unfair and illegal” practices. Beijing wants to establish a solidified environment with Washington when it comes to reconsolidation (McDonald 2021). It seems crucial because issues like an economic partnership, COVID-19, or climate change call for negotiations (Nagy 2021).

The Association of Southeast Asians Nation (ASEAN), established in 1967, has been in charge of controlling the regional order, but not anymore. Beijing is more likely to use aggression to fulfill its will. Its growing power has staggered the federal power cooperation, severely affecting the collaboration between the U.S. and its allies Thailand and the Philippines. Japan and Australia joining by India, share a common sense to fight the Chinese policy of antagonism. India hopes that to rely on the United States, it can stand up against the Chinese territorial aggression. Smaller countries, Laos and Cambodia- in the region do not have the chance to let their voice be heard; they have to accept the emerging geopolitical disruption. The more the U.S. provokes China, the more aggression is likely to be occurring in Asia.

Since World War II, China’s military power turns up and challenges the superiority of the United States in the Western Pacific. China’s aggressive expansionist ambition is transparent due to its demand to conquer all the Southeast Asian Sea, but it is not alone. Japan is a pivotal ally to Washington in the region and one of those actors who would like to take advantage of the energy-rich Southeast China Sea (Mohan 2021). A good partnership was not always the case; during the Trump administration, the President blamed Tokyo for not deploying sufficient security forces to protect its interest in the Sea. The U.S. has something to say as well, and the President calls the Chinese government to stand back and rejects all the claims over the China Sea (The Guardian 2021).

Besides that, Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had a 30 minutes phone call to discuss their concerns. The President granted Japan to back him, and he talked about his will to deepen the security alliance to counter China in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan’s Prime Ministers welcomed Joe Biden’s phone call after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States (The Japan Times 2021). They hope that the new administration creates a more stable political climate in the region, and expectedly the President’s approach will be closer to the Obama and Clinton administrations (Mohan 2021). The Chinese government passed a law allowing coast guards to shot on foreign ships making Japan worried about its island called Senkakus. The U.S. helps Japan defending its island on the disputed Sea, which China claims to belong to him (Mari 2020). The Japanese Prime Minister wants to visit Washington as soon as the health situation allows it, stated during the phone call. The common interest of both is to denuclearize the Korean peninsula (The Japan Times 2021).

Joe Biden’s choice of Secretary of the State, by the name Antony Blinken, talked to his Philippine college, Teodor Locsin, and he said: “the U.S. rejects China’s maritime claims, beyond what is permitted under the international law”. According to the Secretary of the State, Washington endorses the Philippines’ approach and other Southeast Asian countries to push back China. Not just the Philippines, but Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan want to benefit from the trade route, crossing the Southeast-China Sea (The Guardian 2021). On the other side, China complains about the American military presence, which is supposed to be establishing a peaceful order and freedom of seas and international waters. The goal of the President relies on ensuring that China will not be able to build regional hegemony.

Additionally, the U.S. has announced to impose sanctions on state companies involved in building artificial islands on the South China Sea, calling them “maritime empire”. Beijing sees the U.S. as an outsider involved in the regional dispute (Euractiv 2021). Countries in the region fear detrimental effects causes by the tensity in mutual relations. Washington is aware of the rising anxiety; therefore, the U.S. will support Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, announced by the President. State Department spokesman Ned Price secured Taiwan from its support to deepen ties after Chinese military bombers flue through its military defense zone. China considers the Taiwan issue as a red line; this potential conflict could pull the trigger. India is concerned about the affairs mentioned above and agreed to expand its defense cooperation with the United States (WION Web Team 2021). Another country in the region, which has economic ties to China, is Australia being on the same opinion to urge a “free and open Indo-Pacific creating stability in the region” (Al Jazeera 2021). As a lead security partner to the U.S. and a primary trading partner to China, Australia needs to consider its security versus prosperity interests. They hope that Washington will heavily engage militarily and diplomatically in the Asian region (Culver 2020). National security advisor Jake Sullivan tweeted: “America will stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Australia.” (Sullivan 2020).

Joe Biden has announced to focus on climate change as part of his China, Asia policy, which seems to be a complex issue involving one of the most significant infrastructures, the so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The American President criticizes and forces Beijing instead of using harmful fossil fuels to develop a more environmentally friendly project. One of Joe Biden’s first steps as President was rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, which Donald Trump withdrew from, to fight climate change alongside other signatories, China. Yet, it is not clear how President Biden will tackle all the desperate consequences of the BRI, but he is gravely worried about the shady outcome on the participating countries (Lee 2021).

Another important topic for the President to stand up for and which he considers crucial is human rights. Biden stands up to China on human rights. The Chinese Communist Party forces ethnic Uighur women, children, and men into re-education camps and oppressed the democracy movement in Hong Kong last year (Reuters Staff 2021). Secretary State nominee Antony Blinken shares his predecessor statement affirming that China commits genocide against the Muslim Uighurs.

Joe Biden will put a great deal of emphasis on building a strong partnership with Asian allies, mitigate climate change, fight for human rights and promote democratic values. His foreign policy approach appears as the continuation of the Obama and Clinton administrations, and some perspectives of the past four years will also remain. Whether the United Stated led by Joe Biden will balance among his allies while leaving enough places for China on the global stage is hard to predict. Undoubtedly, human rights, climate change, and strong cooperation ambitions remain in question (Bisley 2020).

Written by Henrietta Czellár



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