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US-China relations

Biden is going soft on China

Biden with Xi at the G20 summit in Indonesia last year. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

In a country deeply divided over everything “from nuclear modernisation to chicken nuggets”, the need to counter China has been a welcome point of American consensus, says Danielle Pletka in Foreign Policy. No longer. Thanks to the country’s unique ability to turn everything into a culture war, “the bipartisan concordat on China” is ending. The break, which has been brewing for months, is the product of “myriad, disparate fears” among Democrats, which have coalesced into a more dovish stance on Beijing.

The first is a “progressive backlash” against what some on the left – particularly the younger generations – see as the “drumbeat to war”. Then there are the oft-repeated claims that standing up to China is fostering “anti-Asian sentiment” in the American public. Democrats also want to “draw a contrast with increasing Republican bellicosity” ahead of next year’s election, and worry that the US could soon be hit by a recession – “not the ideal moment for economic conflict”. All this, amplified by the “fretting of the liberal commentariat”, is causing a notable softening in the administration’s line on Beijing. Hence the recent move away from Trump-era talk of “decoupling” to a more nuanced and roomy doctrine of “de-risking”. This shift will certainly allow Joe Biden to reassure critics in his party that he “stood up to warmongering Republicans”. But who’s the real beneficiary? “The People’s Republic of China.”