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United States vs China

As Vice President of an Obama administration that served two terms, our initial thoughts on a Biden presidency was to be somewhat of a continuation of the Obama rule. Obama was the first US President to visit China during his first year in office – even with the backdrop of the 2008 Financial Crisis, he placed great importance on the US-China relations. As an advocate for globalisation, Obama called for the US to evolve from a Leader to a Partner, so much so he claimed the relationship between the United States and China is ‘the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century’ (1).

A statement released by the former president on July 12th alongside Biden supported this as Obama stated a Biden presidency would re-unite the country and bring around a sense of unity on both sides of a currently divided United States. He touched on police reform and healthcare – both extremely pertinent issues in the current political climate leading up to the election.

Source: Chicago Sun Times (2)

China has become a polarising talking point in US and furthermore on the global stage, with escalating tariffs and the outbreak of the Coronavirus still ravaging it’s way through the globe, many US voters see this as a key topic and want to know where each candidate stands on the only real challenger to the United States status as the number one superpower.

With Trump vying for re-election, he has ramped up hawkish rhetoric against China to new heights. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus the US has by far been the worst hit (accounting for nearly ¼ of the global number of cases at the time of writing) with President Trump laying blame solely at the door of President Xi Jinping and the CCP.

Trump’s hard-line approach to China has been lauded in some areas of the US as it is the first time a President has actually addressed what has historically been somewhat of one sided relationship on trade and has even claimed a trade deal struck with China under a Biden administration would result in the US being ‘owned’ by China, a statement sure to strike a cord with his core base.

From a United States point of view, China is seen as a huge threat to their status as number one on the global stage and rightly so, China has been quietly expanding their influence across the globe, a prime example of this can be seen in this article from SCMP on America trying to combat China’s influence on the global stage. For the last 10 years now, China has been the primary trade partner of Africa as a continent and the Chinese have made considerable investment into infrastructure, specifically Central and Eastern Africa as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In addition to this, the offering of interest-free loans is another way China has gained economic and political influence in the region, with relief and some loans for 2020 being forgiven due to the ongoing pandemic would be an action that will likely only enhance China’s soft power in the region (3). Djibouti, a small East African country is also host to China’s overseas military base which hints at other plans aside from just using their relationship with Africa for their resources and workforce.

Source: Africa Center for Strategic Studies (4)

These moves to gain a stronger foothold on the global stage along with the ongoing issues in Hong Kong have been met with a strong response from the Trump administration. From the sanctioning of high ranking CCP officials, the termination of Hong Kong’s special economic status, banning Huawei from US communication networks as well as proposed bans on TikTok and WeChat.

Biden’s approach on dealing with China has seemingly been to out-do Trump’s efforts against China by promising further tariffs and sanctions, but he faces the dilemma of internal politics of the Democratic Party along with his perceived inaction of any of the issues when part of the Obama administration. There are clearly real issues to overcome, but escalating sanctions and billions of dollars lost on both sides due to tariffs, the current strategy has resulted in reduced economic output, lower wages and less jobs may not be the most effective way of dealing with China.

Source: History Extra (6)

With China now a key competitor on global trade, technology and culture, how each candidate approaches relations in the coming Presidential term will likely shape global politics for years to come. Whilst here are clear issues around intellectual property theft, unfair trading practices, military confrontation and human rights violations that need to addressed head on, it is therefore crucial that this is addressed and both Trump and Biden’s approach is clear to US voters before they get to the ballot box. Issues such as the Economy and Coronavirus will dominate the headlines and take up a lot of airtime once the debates are in full swing, there is the underlying backdrop of China that influences all these issues on a geopolitical level.

1. Brookings Institution: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/assessing-u-s-china-relations-under-the-obama-administration/
2. Chicago Sun Times: https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2020/7/23/21336228/barack-obama-joe-biden-buddy-up-in-2020-democratic-campaign-video-punching-at-donald-trump
3. SCMP: https://www.scmp.com/news/world/africa/article/3089492/china-forgive-interest-free-loans-africa-are-coming-due-xi
4. Africa Center for Strategic Studies: https://africacenter.org/spotlight/implications-for-africa-china-one-belt-one-road-strategy/
5. Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/30da66e4-9a73-11ea-adb1-529f96d8a00b
6. History Extra: https://www.historyextra.com/period/20th-century/bay-of-pigs-invasion-kennedys-cuban-catastrophe/

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