December 05, 2021

Biden’s Beijing Bind

Source: The Wire China

Journalist: Katrina Northrop

Although the administration has made it clear that the U.S.-China relationship is the most consequential foreign policy challenge of our time, Biden has yet to release a comprehensive China policy. His Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has said the relationship will be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be.” But many analysts and former officials have been left scratching their heads at how, exactly, that will translate into policy going forward, and what, exactly, the Biden administration hopes to achieve.

“Reactive, and bereft of an operating concept,” says Van Jackson, an international relations scholar at Victoria University of Wellington and former Pentagon official, about the administration’s China policy so far. “Te lack of an intellectual or theoretical north star has made U.S. policy focused on renewing American industry, demonstrating American competence, and building up America’s military, but without antagonizing China. These activities all raise the question of ‘To what end?’”

Attempting to chart a new relationship with few historical precedents is also worthy of credit, says Glaser. "The administration is trying to recast the relationship," she says. "It sees it as a fundamentally new relationship between the U.S. and China, so it is trying to reject past frameworks. It won't be achieved overnight."

Or, as Jacob Stokes, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) who worked on Biden's national security staff when he was vice president, put it, "They are trying to rebuild the plane while flying it."

Read the full story and more from The Wire China.


  • Jacob Stokes

    Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Jacob Stokes is a Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, where his work focuses on U.S.-China relations, Chinese foreign and military policy, East Asian ...