Following an intriguing week in the United States during the presidential election, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on being elected by the American citizens to serve as the leading party of the 46th administration.
At this moment in time, only speculations comparing President-elect Biden’s attitude throughout his political career and where China-U.S. relations stand today can be inferred. During the 45th administration, President Trump had implemented what China experts are calling a “tough” position against the People’s Republic of China, assigning billions of dollars of tariffs on Chinese goods, sanctioning U.S. investors from financing Chinese companies, and many other executive actions such as “America First,” which have all led to reported weakened bilateral ties between the two countries.
Chinese and U.S. officials agree that they are looking forward to working closely together on issues plaguing both nations, which includes eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic and combating global warming. Nick Bisley, an Asia specialist at Australia’s La Trobe University, is certain that China and the U.S. will without a doubt have to re-open communication channels that now are “zippo.” He says, “Biden has made clear that climate change will be a big part of his administration, but you can’t do anything on climate change unless you bring China with you.” As lives and trillion-dollar economies are at stake, it is very likely that the two nations will once again find common ground.
There is no question that the Biden administration will inherit multiple challenges that will need to be resolved before the U.S. and China may begin to strengthen their relationship. Myron Brilliant, the Executive Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stated, “There is no question that President Trump has adopted a tough stance on China, and this probably doesn’t give president-elect Biden a lot of political flexibility early on, but we expect a significant departure in tone, style and process.”
It’s true that the U.S. Congress continues to introduce bipartisan efforts to further invest in American technological industries, foretelling that technological innovation will remain a factor of competition between the two markets. Victor Gao, a Chinese expert on international relations, believes that competition in the technological vertical should not be viewed negatively. “Competition can actually bring also good things for both countries and for mankind as a whole.”
When it comes to the Biden administration’s foreign policies regarding China and the European Union, there are two schools of thought: Some experts predict that a Biden administration is looking to reconnect with European allies that could possibly strain relations between Beijing and Washington, as the EU has previously expressed interest in balancing trade and enforcing policies that would prevent the free flow of goods from China; others recognize that the EU is moving toward a more unified position on China that could not only strengthen economic ties between the two, but also allow China to make greater contributions to humanity.
During the campaign, Biden proclaimed, “If we don’t set the rules, we in fact are going to find out ourselves with China setting the rules, and that’s why we need to organize the world to stop China to stop the current practices that are under way.” His words showcase the pressure he will face from both parties, lawmakers, and his constituents that view China as a supposed national security threat; perceiving China’s development over the last decade through an adversarial lens no doubt construed by the Trump administration.
The world will be watching the actions taken by the Biden administration after his inauguration in January. While it is hard to anticipate specifics, there is optimism that the U.S. will once again return to the world stage, continuing their collaborative efforts around the world with partners such as China to combat issues placating not only the two economies, but the entire world.