The Biden Administration is headed now to the halfway point of its execrable term. Having managed to survive what was supposed to be a blowout midterm for their Republican rivals, Joe Biden and his team are feeling their oats. They defied history: with record levels of disaster and misery surrounding his tenure, in a midterm election year in which incumbent parties almost always lose control of Congress, Biden is walking away with minimal damage.
Yet a far greater spectacle of national disaster awaits the American people in the coming weeks: Biden’s meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in Indonesia. And with the Democratic Party’s improbable survival in the midterms, Biden undoubtedly will confuse his blind luck with actual skill and attempt to finesse his way into better relations with Beijing—which of course will do lasting damage to U.S. national interests.
Biden Pretends to be a China Hawk
When Biden ran for president in 2020, he faced criticism that he was far too friendly to China over the course of his long career in government. Biden, like so many others, insisted he now recognized the threat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) posed to the world and would make moves to hold the line against China’s expansionism in the Indo-Pacific. He seemed to make good on his word, placing China hawks such as Kurt Campbell in positions of influence.
While he’d never be as hawkish about China as former President Donald Trump or any other Republican leader would be, Biden appeared poised to challenge the Communist nation. Under Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the State Department received funding to create an entire China shop—supposedly dedicated to marshaling America’s diplomatic power against China in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Various intelligence and defense assessments came out listing China as America’s primary strategic threat in the world. What’s more, Biden himself appeared to continue the hardline policies on China that his much-maligned predecessor had enacted, creating some degree of bipartisan consensus during a time when almost none existed.
Biden, the Panda Hugger
Sadly, just beneath the surface, Biden’s true nature was still strong and is yet again coming to the surface. In Biden, Beijing has a president who had spent his entire career championing closer U.S. ties with the CCP. In 2000 as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden supported China’s desire to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It has since been revealed that, through his son, Hunter, Joe Biden may have become financially dependent upon—and, therefore, compromised by—the CCP.
It stands to reason, therefore, that Biden’s presidency will ultimately be far friendlier to China than most others would be. With the coming presidential trip to the G7 meeting in Indonesia, in which Biden will meet with Xi, one can anticipate a shift in U.S. policies toward China will commence.
Biden Appears Weak While Xi Jinping Projects Strength
China’s Xi Jinping, who recently secured an historic third term as chairman by using force to crush his opponents, knows Biden is weak (whatever brilliance Biden may believe he possesses because his party was not totally destroyed in the 2022 midterms notwithstanding). Xi is unlike any Chinese leader since Mao: he does not merely seek to bide his nation’s time and hide their capabilities. Instead, Xi wants to showcase China’s purported strength under his rule by openly challenging the United States for control of the Indo-Pacific.
Xi does not care for trading what he believes are China’s core national interests (“reunifying” with Taiwan, for example) for some economic benefits that more peaceful relations with the West may yield. Xi would certainly like to have greater trade with the United States—but only as a means of enriching his regime and enhancing the capabilities of his military to threaten China’s neighbors and the Americans.
That is why the Biden Administration’s recent recalibrations in the language it uses to describe China has been so troubling. Heading into the G7 summit, various mouthpieces for the Biden Administration have started to define the Sino-American competition in purely economic terms rather than what it really is: a geostrategic competition for control of the future. By limiting the Sino-American rivalry to economics and trade, as the Biden Administration strives to do, Biden is returning to form; he is also bringing the Americans backward to a time when the country was being taken advantage of by a rapacious, rising rival power.
Biden’s Cynical China Calculation
For Biden, normalizing and restoring relations with China would help stabilize America’s flagging economy by having Beijing ameliorate some of America’s inflationary woes. Yet greater trade with China would enhance Beijing’s power and ability to threaten its neighbors at America’s expense. Biden believes he will meet Xi Jinping with a strengthened hand because of his party’s decent showing in the election. What both Biden and his team fail to recognize is that Xi Jinping has increasingly taken control of every facet of Chinese life. Under the guise of defending China from COVID-19, Xi has implemented “war-time controls” designed to condition his people for conflict and to demonstrate his strength. No one outside of the cloistered Democratic Party headquarters actually believes that Biden is tough or capable.
Therefore, when Biden goes to Indonesia to normalize relations with Xi, the Chinese ruler will view Biden’s actions for what they truly are: bootlicking intended to stave off the inevitable Chinese assault. Rather than being deterred from future hostilities, Xi will likely be encouraged to be more aggressive, since American weakness is provocative.
Unlike past instances of American presidents bootlicking Beijing’s leaders, time is not on America’s side this time. China has already evolved from a purely economic competitor to a multifaceted threat that could soon challenge the United States for global primacy. Washington’s current crop of leaders is feckless and weak. In contrast, Beijing’s—notably Xi—are arrogant and ideologically committed to defeating the United States at all costs (and replacing it as the world’s hegemonic power).
No deal is worth trading America’s dominance for China’s. Nothing good will come from Biden’s pending trip to Indonesia.