The Ambivalence of Biden’s China Policy

March 22, 2021 Updated: March 30, 2021


U.S. President Joe Biden, in his first foreign policy speech, called China the “most serious competitor” of the United States. However, Biden’s own China policy is ambivalent, sometimes showing favor toward the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and sometimes showing toughness.

Biden isn’t acting. He’s entangled in the conflict between following the dictates of “political correctness” and protecting national security.

Is the CCP Autocracy a Cultural Norm?

At a CNN televised event in Milwaukee on Feb. 16, Biden said: “If you know anything about Chinese history … the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that.

“I am not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan. … Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”

This is what Biden said in accordance with his values—and the consistent standpoint of a “panda hugger.” Biden’s values fully demonstrate the views of the politically correct camp in the United States, which refuses to openly acknowledge that the communist ideology of the Chinese regime originated from Marxism.

Instead, this camp talks about “cultural relativism,” which was imported from Europe and emphasizes that “cultural diversity has no right or wrong”—an important point of neo-Marxism born in Europe. Its essence is “moral negation,” which believes that the moral concept of right and wrong allegedly based in Christian civilization must be eliminated and replaced by concepts like sexual confusion, advocacy of ethnic and class antagonism, anti-capitalism, and anti-religion.

When Biden and others like him describe the red autocracy as a “cultural norm,” they undoubtedly paint the CCP’s culture with a thin layer of justification. This is a type of sophistry.

Under basic democratic values and concepts, it’s not difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. However, the ideology of neo-Marxism advocates overthrowing the existing social order and introducing various new and old Marxist values to transform democratic societies. To reach its goals, it emphasizes cultural relativism, equates its authoritarian culture with the traditional culture of the democratic system, and caps its authoritarian culture with a fallacious crown of “cultural diversity.”

Biden is a clumsy student of neo-Marxism. Not knowing how to circumvent the sophistry, he can only parrot the words of others, displaying a blatant tolerance of autocracy. In fact, the “politically correct” camp is hypocritical, showing no mercy when it comes to suppressing traditional Western values while promoting the idea that cultural diversity has no right or wrong.

Epoch Times Photo
Red Guard members wave copies of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book” during a parade in Beijing in June 1966. Lenin’s and Mao’s paranoid loathing of the bourgeoisie has once again mutated, as it did a century ago, from class hatred into race hatred. (Jean Vincent/AFP via Getty Images)

We have seen in the United States that political correctness is nothing more than postmodernist autocratic thinking. It’s rooted in the values of red autocracy, which is why it’s always compatible with the CCP in terms of values. And like the CCP, the politically correct camp intends to control society with its own authoritarian thinking.

When those in this camp criticize the CCP’s human rights violations, it’s just a show intended to blur their close ties with the red autocratic values. It’s neither sincere nor serious.

Many of the older generations of politically correct Americans were attracted to Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book during the 1960s anti-war movement. They’ve since entered university lecture halls and cultivated the pro-Marxist faculty that now occupies positions in universities and middle schools.

The 3 Factions in US Politics

The U.S. policy on China under former President Donald Trump was very clear and definitive, while Biden’s China policy seems a bit chaotic.

Panda huggers and “dragon slayers” have always existed in the United States. Panda huggers have been seen in the political, financial, business, and academic arenas. Some members of the military and Republican Party are dragon slayers, or what I refer to as the “panda restrainers.”

At this moment, Americans in political and business circles fall under three categories in dealing with China. The first category is the panda restrainers, or patriots. The second is the “traitors”—the panda huggers who prefer to strengthen the enemy and weaken their own country for their own interests. The third is what I call the “domestic harm group”—those who insist that politically correct ideas may not align with the interests of the CCP, but don’t hesitate to use the ideology of political correctness to promote various policies that harm the interests of the United States, in order to establish an autocracy.

The U.S.–China relationship will remain complicated into the future. The confrontation at the military level is obvious, but frequent and detailed analysis is also needed at other levels. Unlike Trump, Biden is unwilling to adopt a consistent policy at all levels, and he will make conflicting decisions with regard to the military, espionage, economics, and politics to a certain extent.

As the U.S. military believes that national security is increasingly threatened by the CCP, it has called for strengthening national defense and demanded support from the panda restrainers in Congress and the government. Although many companies in the U.S. business community opposed Trump’s policy of economically containing the CCP, the military’s push for a tough stance has imposed certain constraints on the panda huggers.

The military is rushing to deploy in accordance with the pace of the U.S.–China military confrontation, and the U.S. military’s preparation and deployment will inevitably restrict economic exchanges between the two countries.

CCP Is Preparing for War

The Asia-Pacific region is now facing its most dangerous decade as a result of the CCP’s international ambitions and military threats. The CCP’s military threat to the United States is not just a war of words; it has already made legislative preparations for war mobilization. The CCP has expanded the “war conditions” in its national defense law to include economic necessity as an important reason for “war mobilization,” according to a report published on Oct. 22, 2020, by the regime’s overseas propaganda media Duowei News.

China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, met on Oct. 13 last year to consider draft amendments to the national defense law stipulating that when “development interests are threatened,” a nationwide or local mobilization is necessary.

china military
Chinese soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army wear protective masks as they march after a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of China’s entry into the Korean War, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Oct. 23, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

In fact, there’s no need to follow legal procedures when high-level CCP officials and the military decide to launch a war. When the Communist Party began the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Battle of Zhenbao Island, they kept their activities secret from the nation and spread propaganda through the media.

In its revised national defense law, the CCP avoided using the highly sensitive word “war” to define “general mobilization.” In fact, there is only one kind of “general mobilization” related to the national defense law, namely the general mobilization for war, which usually includes expanding the military pool and conscripting veterans to serve in the armed forces; converting the civilian economy for military use and extending working hours; and limiting the supply of civilian consumer goods and civilian industrial goods according to the needs of war.

When the CCP amended the national defense law, it included economic needs (or “development interests” as stated in official media) as the reason for the general mobilization for war. In other words, the national defense law amendment expands the CCP’s definition of “war conditions” for foreign wars to an infinite extent. A random comment can be easily linked with economic interests and then become a pretext for declaring war.

This kind of general mobilization of war covers far more than the obvious conflict in the Taiwan Strait, for example, because what is most relevant to the Chinese regime’s development interests are foreign trade, technology theft, and foreign capital inflow—and these factors are mainly related to the United States.

In the CCP’s eyes, the United States is the country that could impede its global economic interests. The change in the national defense law means that the CCP’s war threat is aimed primarily at the United States.

Why Is CCP Unwilling to Compete Peacefully?

The “rise” of the CCP was promoted by breaking international rules and laws of various countries, such as the massive theft of intellectual property and technological secrets from the United States and other countries, and the long-term maintenance of a high trade surplus with the United States, in violation of international trade rules.

If we return to normal competition at the level of international rules and laws, the CCP will lose these important tools that support its economy. Therefore, when Trump initiated U.S.–China talks on the subject of intellectual property infringement, the CCP rejected the effort. Meanwhile, the CCP insisted on its policy of exerting pressure on the United States. Since it is still economically dependent on the United States, the Chinese regime is trying to force the United States to give in by going after it militarily.

“Judging by official statements from China and the United States, Beijing is doing its best to avoid being labeled a ‘challenge to the United States.’ In fact, it is difficult for Beijing to hide the fact that ‘China has challenged the United States,'” Chinese media stated in an article on Feb. 12.

“Economically, China has become the second-largest economy after the United States since 2011, and many economists predict that China will surpass the United States by 2027 or 2028. At the global economic governance level, the impact of the CCP’s Belt and Road [Initiative] on the global geopolitical landscape will become increasingly evident.

“At the military level, China and the United States are both nuclear-armed states, and China’s military presence in the South China Sea and Taiwan has increased significantly in recent years, with the [People’s Liberation Army’s] military deterrence increasing significantly. The absolute advantage of the United States in the Asia-Pacific is becoming a relative advantage.”

These are the CCP’s foreign propaganda words, and their self-aggrandizement is questionable. However, its ambitious mentality is fully reflected in these words; the CCP doesn’t hide its intention of challenging the United States.

Is the US–China Relationship Competitive?

Biden’s characterization of the CCP as a “competitor” reduces the Trump administration’s perception of the CCP at the diplomatic level and is much more moderate.

An article published in February by Duowei News, titled “Two Realities Determining Beijing’s Interaction with the Biden Administration,” points out that there are two factors in the current U.S.–China relationship. First, the rapid deterioration of the relationship over the past four years, especially in 2020, points toward a new cold war. Second, the new cold war between the United States and China may be caught in the Thucydides’ Trap, a term popularized a decade ago by Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of “Destined for War.”

The term refers to the dangerous dynamic that occurs when a rising power threatens to displace an existing great power as an international hegemon. And under these conditions, both parties become especially vulnerable to third-party provocations or even accidents.

The cold war was started by the CCP, and the Trump administration responded in a timely manner. The Biden administration has since downplayed the situation and used the term “China challenge” to describe the current U.S.–China relationship.

In reality, the United States is now facing a military threat from the Chinese regime. The CCP has long posed a significant threat to U.S. national security in four major arenas: military, economic, espionage, and political infiltration. For the United States, this threat is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The CCP didn’t accidentally ignite the Cold War; it did so in a premeditated and calculated manner, believing that it would be the winner regardless of what the rest of the world thought.

The military and economic strength of the United States is sufficient to deal with the Chinese communist threat, and whether the CCP will continue to display its arrogance depends on how the Biden administration intends to deal with it.

The future of the United States and the rest of the world is at stake.

Cheng Xiaonong is a scholar of China’s politics and economy based in New Jersey. Cheng was a policy researcher and aide to former Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang. He also served as chief editor of Modern China Studies.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.