On October 12, the White House released the national strategy that lays the groundwork for U.S. national security. And one of the priorities listed first is China and Russia. “The People’s Republic of China and Russia are increasingly aligned with each other but the challenges they pose are, in important ways, distinct,” the document notes.
In addition, the White House report notes, Russia is considered an” immediate threat to the free and open international system,” and Communist China is a threat to international order. “China by contrast, is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, [reshape] the economic,
diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective.”
This is the first time that the Biden administration has formally issued a national security strategy for the country, recognizing Chinese Communist Party as “America’s most relevant geopolitical challenge” and stressing the importance of rebuilding and maintaining alliances to be competitive and face future conflicts.
At a press conference, Jake Sullivan, the Biden’s national security adviser, said, “We are not seeking to have competition tip over into confrontation or a new Cold War.” He also stressed the importance of the next decade for the global order, “This decisive decade is critical both for defining the terms of competition, particularly with the PRC [People’s Republic of China], and also for getting ahead of massive challenges, if we lose the time in this decade we will not be able to keep pace with … the challenges.”
He also added that Washington must manage the relationship with the regime while addressing transnational challenges, including food insecurity, communicable diseases, terrorism, energy transition, and inflation.
The national security strategy sets as a priority investing in the fundamentals of America’s strength at home – its competitiveness, innovation, resilience, and its democracy. In addition it must align its efforts with its partners, acting with common purpose and toward a common cause. These two points are the most important in addressing the rapid development and modernization that the Chinese regime is achieving with its military forces, as well as confronting Communist China’s expansion around the world to impose its “authoritarian model” through its economic might.
The national security adviser also remarked that the United States wants to work with the regime, “We will engage constructively with the PRC whenever we can, not as a favor and not in exchange for our principles, but because working together to solve common problems is what the world expects from responsible powers. And because it is in our interest.”
The report mentions that the Biden administration intends to hold the the Chinese Communist Party accountable for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, and the “dismantling of autonomy and civil liberties in Hong Kong.” No special mention is noted of other human rights abuses, such as religious persecution and Chinese dissident activists.
Regarding Taiwan, the primary interest is to maintain peace in the straits, however, it is stated that the U.S. opposes any unilateral change of the status quo by either side and does not support independence for the island nation.
Political message to Xi?
Experts and analysts on China agree that the document released by the Biden administration is “a strong political message to Xi” and that it is no mere coincidence that it was released just days before the 20th National CCP Congress.
Zhu Feng, professor of international affairs at Nanjing University said, “It is significant because Biden’s China approach is finally taking shape and it is an intimidating, aggressive and teeth-clenching approach aimed at curbing China’s rise, competitiveness and influence.” He added, “It means unprecedented challenges and pressure for China.”
Gal Luft, co-director of the Washington-based Institute for Global Security Analysis, said, “Washington is schizophrenic about China, projecting its own belligerence on it. It states disinterest in a Cold War, but every one of its actions signals otherwise. Its actions point to only one direction: confrontation, provocation, sabotage, and derailment.”
Luft also noted that this was the first time the U.S. had mentioned the PRC (People’s Republic of China) instead of simply China, and that it would thus be drawing a distinction between the Chinese people and the regime.
Other experts pointed out that Biden’s strategy should consider China as a threat and that it would need a bigger budget to strengthen U.S. defenses. However, the United States and other countries should stop bolstering CCP’s power, redirect the effort to realize strategic disengagement, and abandon those commitments that undermine allies while the CCP takes advantage of it.
A recent paper by Robert Manning, published by the Stimson Center, raises some contradictions presented by Biden’s strategy. On the one hand, the paper correctly explains that global challenges such as pandemics, food insecurity, and terrorism require global cooperation. But these competing goals are not easily divided because the CCP shut down cooperation on climate change to protest U.S. policies toward Taiwan and bans on high-end technology exports.
In conclusion, the Biden administration’s national security strategy recognizes the danger of Communist China’s advances in the world. However, the document only limits itself to mentioning a few points, such as competition in technology and defense, among others. Russia has also played an important role as a threat to the United States since the beginning of the war.
On October 16, the event that will decide the political future of China will begin, with the possible re-election of Xi Jinping as absolute leader of the Chinese Communist Party. How will he confront Biden’s new strategy toward the East Asian country?