December 7th U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has initiated the government handover and formed a cabinet.
Biden will face many urgent domestic matters when he takes office, including the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, the damaged health care system, severe economic problems, racial issues that tear society apart and controversial immigration issues.
While focusing on domestic problems in the United States, Biden is also rubbing his hands, hoping to show the world that “America is back”.
He wants to repair the damaged international status and image of the United States, repair the scarred system of allies, and sweep away the haze brought by the Trump administration to the international community.
Now that the formation of Biden’s government policy is just beginning, we can get a glimpse of the rudiment of his foreign policy from its past ideas, the public expression of the transition team, and the published cabinet list.
Three things to open the door
Biden himself has been an expert in foreign policy.
Since 1975, Biden has been a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served as the chairman of the Committee from 2001 to 2003, and from 2007 to 2009. He visited around the world during the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and established familiar relationships not only with many foreign leaders, but also with their deputy, senior assistants and even many opposition leaders. He has participated in solving major global issues such as arms control, nuclear non-proliferation and NATO expansion.
It is widely believed that Biden’s most prominent “achievement” during his tenure in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee was to play one of the behind the Clinton administration’s bombing of Kosovo in the 1990s war.
Biden’s diplomatic propositions fit into the traditional Democratic Party’s diplomatic lines, such as his strong advocacy of the Global AIDS Action Plan, support for free trade agreements, attention to climate change, international organizations and regulation. He is particularly concerned about African affairs and attacks the apartheid system in South Africa.
After taking office, he wants to restore the “gdignity of leadership” in the United States. He believes that Trump’s capricious policies and failure to adhere to basic democratic principles have made the United States give up its leadership in the world. For his new government, the most important thing is to lead by example, once again put the United States first, lead the world to meet the most urgent global challenges, promote the security and prosperity of the United States, and highlight American values.
For this reason, the United States should first practice its internal skills, that is, to enhance the soft and hard power of the United States. Biden is eager to heal the United States, end social divisions, respect the rule of law, and keep the United States a “model of democracy” and thus have “effective soft power that can be transmitted abroad”. He wants to reach a bipartisan consensus on a number of issues, such as investing in future projects, namely infrastructure, education, energy, advanced science and technology, artificial intelligence, 5G, etc.
And on this basis, how to restore the “gignified leadership position” of the United States?
The most important thing is to do three things:
First, we should unite the “democracy”.
To this end, the Biden Transition Team announced that during his first year in office, Biden would bring together the world’s “democracy nations” to host a “Global Democracy Summit” to “in good faith address the challenges of countries that are going backwards” and set a common agenda to uphold “common values.”
The conference will include three agendas: combating corruption, opposing authoritarianism and promoting human rights.
The conference will invite not only the governments of major “democratic countries”, but also civil society organizations, technology companies and social media giants and other private sectors from all over the world in order to make these organizations and enterprises aware of their “responsibilities and great benefits in maintaining open, democratic societies and protecting freedom of expression. Benefits”. Technology companies should make a commitment to ensure that their algorithms and platforms are not authorized to monitor countries, contributing to “repression” in China and elsewhere.
The “Global Democracy Summit” will be the first step for the Biden administration to consolidate the “democracy alliance” and the first step to restore America’s “moral leadership” to give other countries once again reason to trust and respect the words of the President of the United States and to declare “America is back” to the world again.
The second is to return to international organizations and international agreements.
Biden said he wants to lead the world to address the most pressing global challenges. From climate change to nuclear proliferation, from “great power aggression” to transnational “terrorism”, from cyber warfare to mass migration, no country can meet these challenges alone. Therefore, the Biden administration needs to re-enact multilateralism and rely on international organizations and agreements to continue to lead the world.
On November 19, Biden said at a press conference that on his first day as President of the United States, the United States would rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris Agreement.
He said that although the WHO “does poorly” in the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic, the United States needs to work with other countries, including China, to find ways to solve the current epidemic and stop future epidemics. At the same time, all countries must work together to deal with climate change, so the United States wants to return to the Paris Agreement and play a leading role in international cooperation on climate change.
But it should also be noted that Biden’s return to multilateralism does not mean that the United States is back to the Obama era, but to make concessions and compromises in the thinking of making transactions. After four years of Trump’s foreign policy adjustment, “America First” has been deeply engraved into American foreign policy. Biden cannot go back, and the power balance between China and the United States has also changed. Biden will not give China a green light for international affairs.
Therefore, Biden will “reshape” more than “return” to international organizations.
Take the WTO, for example, which was almost marginalized in the Trump era. Over the past two years, under the obstruction of the United States, the WTO appeal mechanism has been paralyzed, funds have plummeted, the Director-General has left office early, and the reform process has stalled. After Biden takes office, although the United States may support former Nigerian Finance Minister Ivira as Director-General, it will push for WTO reform and rebuild the Appellate Body to unite other countries through the organization to exert multilateral pressure on China to meet U.S. demands in areas such as intellectual property rights, subsidies, labor and environmental regulations.
On the treatment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Biden administration is not simply returning to the TPP, but to renegotiate the TPP agreement. If he doesn’t get enough domestic political support, Biden is likely to start a new role and seek new mechanisms, such as the proposed D10 (G7 plus Australia, Japan and South Korea), or including India and other countries, in response to the world’s largest free trade agreement signed by China and 14 Asia-Pacific countries. Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
Third, continue to maintain military superiority and rebuild the international arms control mechanism.
The Biden transition team announced on its website that Biden will not hesitate to protect the American people and use force when necessary. The Biden administration will make the necessary investments to ensure that the United States has the world’s most powerful army to meet global challenges, and that the use of force should be the last resort, not the first, of the United States.
To this end, Biden wants to end the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, withdraw the vast majority of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and end support for the Saudi-led Yemen war, focusing the U.S. military’s mission in the Middle East on fighting Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The Iranian nuclear and North Korean nuclear issues are urgent issues for the Biden administration. The Iran nuclear agreement signed with the six major powers in 2015 is the diplomatic result of the Obama-Biden administration. Biden believes that the agreement prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and the withdrawal of the Trump administration has restarted Iran’s nuclear program and become more provocative, bringing the region to the forefront of a catastrophic war. If Iran resumes compliance, Biden will re-sign the Iran nuclear agreement, cooperate with five other countries, including China and Russia, to strengthen and expand the agreement, while countering what Iran calls “other destabilizing activities”.
On the North Korean nuclear issue, unlike Trump’s favorite private meetings with Kim Jong-un repeatedly, Biden prefers to authorize a negotiator to advance multilateral negotiations with North Korea to achieve the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, an ally of the United States and other countries, including China.
In addition, Biden will extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in February 2021, in order to seek strategic stability between the United States and Russia and establish new arms control mechanisms.
win over your friends
The establishment of the “Democratic Alliance”, a proposal made by Democrats in the Princeton Report as early as the second term of George W. Bush administration.
During the Obama administration, although the United States was consolidating the ally system, it did not explicitly point to the concept of “Democratic National Alliance”. With the rise of China’s power, the Biden administration finally created a “common goal” to dominate the concept, a common imaginary enemy that can once again bind the United States closely with its allies.
The United States is ready to implement this concept.
Recently, Republicans of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee led the writing of a strategy report entitled “The United States and Europe: A Specific Plan for Transatlantic Cooperation to Address China”. The report analyzes the China issues that the United States and Europe must work together to address from seven aspects, including political and cultural infiltration, influence in international organizations, inequality in trade and investment, scientific and technological competition, overseas business activities, and power expansion in Africa and the Indo-Pacific region.
The Transatlantic Alliance has fallen to freezing point since Trump entered the White House in 2017. Under the Biden administration, the United States and Europe can once again hold the hand of cooperation and jointly deal with China, a “systematic competitor”.
In order to deal with China, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, the United States and Europe may have to put aside their differences and work together to defend “common values” even in the event of conflict of opinion.
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Borelli, said without concealment that the EU welcomes “an opportunity to cooperate again with a U.S. president who does not regard us as an ‘enemy’ or that the EU ‘willfully exploits the United States'”.
In July 2019, when he elaborated on his foreign policy, Biden made it clear that “the most effective way to meet the challenge is to establish a united front composed of friends and partners to confront China.” He hopes that the United States and the Western “democracy” can unite to build a global economy, form a greater force to compete with China, and give the United States more strength to establish new rules.
To this end, the Biden administration will work to rebuild trust with allies, especially the European Union. The United States will lead the goal of “checking and balancing China” and unite its allies and partners, not only the European Union, but also Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Southeast Asian countries, New Zealand and other “identical countries”.
Biden wants to restore the historical partnership of the United States, such as re-emphasizing the importance of NATO to meet traditional and non-traditional challenges; reshape some partnerships, such as integrating American friends in Latin America and Africa; and will use the opportunity of the United States to host the next Summit of the Americas in 2021 to rebuild the Western Hemisphere Partnership. Partnership; will also reaffirm the commitment of the United States to democratic institutions on the African continent and take measures to promote economic growth, trade and investment in Africa.
Climate change is really important.
If you want to judge the diplomatic areas where Trump and Biden are most divided, it must be “climate change”.
Trump believes that climate change is a false proposition, vigorously promotes traditional manufacturing and fossil energy, does not give climate change and new energy any policy opportunities at all, and flagrantly withdraws from the Paris Agreement.
And Biden listed four top issues he would face on his transition website: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equality and climate change. He raised the importance of climate change to an unprecedented level and appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as the special presidential representative on climate change.
In Biden’s view, climate change is an internal and external linkage issue, which can not only drive the economic recovery of the United States, but also enable the United States to continue to dominate new technologies, lead future climate change cooperation, and firmly grasp the power of international rule-making.
Biden wants to lead a clean economy revolution, create 10 million new jobs for the U.S., and spur clean energy by investing in research and development.
He has an ambitious plan to make the United States a 100% clean energy economy and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
He also has a larger global plan – to unite the world to solve the “living climate crisis”. Biden claimed to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office and would convene a global climate summit in his first 100 days in power, inviting leaders of the world’s major carbon-emitting countries to participate and persuade them to make more national commitments beyond the commitments they have made.
Behind Biden’s climate ambitions, there’s actually a hidden American selfishness — not just to seize the high ground of the future economy, but to ensure “other countries don’t economically weaken the U.S.” The United States will pressure China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, to stop subsidies for coal exports and stop fossil energy projects funded by the Belt and Road Initiative.
Pay more attention to scientific and technological competition with China
Relatively speaking, the differences between Biden and Trump on China policy are not as big as other problems. There is no doubt that Biden will continue Trump’s toughness towards China, aiming to contain China.
However, Biden will still show some differences from Trump. In terms of wording, the Democratic Party prefers to regard China as a “strategic competitor” rather than an “enemy of full-scale confrontation” in order to leave room for possible multilateral cooperation.
The first is to place more emphasis on multilateral alliances than unilateral responses.
Biden prefers to rely on multilateral mechanisms to build a “United Front” to deal with China. In the last presidential election debate, he said that he would unite allies to promote China’s compliance with international rules.
Second, more emphasis is placed on scientific and technological competition with China.
Compared with the Republican government, the Democratic government has a closer relationship with the scientific and technological community. On the issue of science and technology, the Biden camp said that China cannot be allowed to overwhelm the United States, so it will confirm that the United States maintains a leading position in research and development, and will not lag behind China, including artificial intelligence, clean energy, 5G, high-speed rail, etc. On the one hand, it will increase domestic R&D investment, and on the other hand, it will increase multilateral cooperation.
Third, change the focus of Sino-US economic and trade relations.
Shi Kendo, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that during the Trump administration, protracted Sino-US trade negotiations may be changed under the Biden administration, because “there will be no more trade negotiations with China in the Biden administration”.
Generally speaking, the Democratic Party is still in favor of free trade, that is, to benefit both sides in ordinary trade. Biden may be less interested in many tariffs Trump imposes, such as those on labor-intensive products.
Closely linked to high-tech competition with China, the Biden administration will certainly retain the embargo on high-tech products, which will even be worse than Trump’s. He will continue to strengthen the blockade of military and high-tech industries, and even link it to human rights. The primary task of the Biden administration’s Commerce Department is to implement the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 and tighten export controls to China on key technologies.
In addition, the status of the Taiwan issue in Sino-US relations may also increase.Ratner, a key diplomatic adviser to the Biden administration, said in a videoconference of the Paulson Foundation in August that Taiwan will be the “top” issue in the Biden administration and an increasingly weighty topic. The United States needs to rethink how the U.S.-Taiwan relations develop.
Biden himself has a considerable understanding of the Taiwan issue. He was one of the original voters when the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 was passed by the Senate Foreign Committee, and he had a deep understanding of the law. In 2001, he published an article in the Washington Post, criticizing the George W. Bush administration’s vague position on Taiwan’s strategy, saying that the United States will confirm its commitment to maintaining Taiwan’s autonomy. Former U.S. chairman of the Taiwan Council, Bu Ruizhe, said that Biden and his advisers attach great importance to Taiwan’s “democracy”, so Taiwan’s friends should have “confidence” in Biden.
In any case, after Biden comes to power, Sino-US relations cannot return to the contact state before Trump.