The Biden Administration Is Not Serious About Deterring Xi and We Are Running Out of Time

British Prime Minister Harold Wilson said that a week is a long time in politics. Last week revealed Wilson’s prescience once again. Just when the country had seemingly recovered from the unctuous and foolish visit to China by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit demonstrates just how much worse things can get.

Yellen’s repeated bowing to a subordinate of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Vice Premier He Lifeng, was a singular combination of truly bizarre behavior, a masterclass of what not to do, and symbolic of how unserious the Biden Administration is in confronting the threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Yellen went out of her way to allay China’s fears regarding any U.S. effort to “decouple” from China, which seems to have been the point of the trip. Yellen’s visit only could have been worse if she had placed the lampshade on her head and spilled her drink on Xi.

By contrast, in the same week Xi was warning his Eastern Theater Command to prepare for war. Far from a concern about “decoupling,” Xi warned that the world had entered a new period of turmoil and change, and China’s security had become more unstable and uncertain. Xi charged the military with “deepening war and combat planning to increase our chances of actual victory in actual combat.” The disaster of Yellen’s visit and the bellicose statements by Xi permit us to recognize that while China is preparing for war, the Biden Administration is obsessed with returning to the policy of engagement with the PRC—the very same policy that has put America at risk.

This week, the annual NATO summit in Vilnius discussed important matters relevant to the alliance and the war in Ukraine. But before the leaders met it is evident that there is a major division in the alliance, first, over the Biden administration’s determination to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine. Second, over whether and when Ukraine might be brought into NATO. Third, there is a divide over the deeper issue considered by the alliance whether to bring pressure to bear to end the attritional war or continue it until Ukraine’s nebulous war aims are achieved or Russia is denied victory. Here the alliance is split with the Germans advocating for the war’s termination and the Biden administration supporting its continuation, exemplified with Biden’s approval of sending cluster munitions to Ukraine.

As important as those issues are, the world this week is closer to the brink of war in Asia, one that will be started by Xi and his determination for the PRC to achieve the China Dream of global domination. This will be a war to conquer Taiwan, an event that directly impacts the national security of the United States and its allies. That war is made even more likely by the Biden administration’s fundamental absence of determination to deter the war. Unlike what has transpired over the past 500 days with the war in Ukraine, the Biden administration has not provided Taiwan with the requisite military equipment, training, maintenance, and stores to deter the attack or provide for the island’s defense in the event deterrence fails.

Beijing understands the upcoming 2024 presidential elections in Taiwan and the United States could very well result in a reversal of Biden’s return to the policy of engagement and appeasement. The more the Biden administration seeks to engage with their Chinese Communist Party (CCP) counterparts, the more emboldened and aggressive we can expect Xi to be. He will be ever bolder in his employment of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) against Taiwan, our allies in the East and South China Sea, and increasingly into the waters of the Second Island Chain. All of which is aligned to Xi’s directives to the PLA to “enhancing the planning of war and combat … and stepping up training under real combat conditions to raise the forces’ capabilities to fight and win.”

Two things must occur to avoid this conflict.

The first is that the Biden administration must not be allowed to resume the failed policies of unaccountable engagement. The Congress has a role to play in preventing this return and like the Congress did with the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act. The 2000 NDAA for the first time placed very specific prohibitions on the Defense Department’s interactions with the PLA, the same kinds of legislation must be passed regarding economic and diplomatic engagement with the PRC.

Second, the Congress must demand the administration begin to arm Taiwan to the same levels as Ukraine, either in terms of dollars spent or in military measures of effectiveness. In that regard, the Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command should be dispatched to Taiwan to meet his counterpart and begin the process of sustaining the status quo in the cross-strait environment.

The images of Blinken and Yellen kowtowing to Beijing are shameful and humiliating for the United States. They will not age well and are well noted by U.S. allies and adversaries. They are exactly the wrong signals to be sending to the CCP. This behavior has only emboldened their desire to achieve what Xi terms the Great Rejuvenation, a synonym for the conquest of Taiwan. The strategic trend line of the CCP’s words and actions are unmistakable, time is not on our side. No more buffoonish demonstrations of an adolescent infatuation for the enemy of the U.S. can be tolerated.

James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is Director of China Policy at the Center for Security Policy. He is the coauthor with Lianchao Han of “Understanding the China Threat.”  

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer

James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is a Founding Member of the Committee on Present Danger China and the coauthor with Lianchao Han of Understanding the China Threat.

Photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with U.S. President Joe Biden via video link, in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 16, 2021. (Photo by Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via Getty Images)