The United States—from a combination of arrogance and ignorance—is preparing to tie its own hands on China policy.
The conventional wisdom these days is that U.S. policy on China will not change when President-elect Joe Biden replaces President Donald Trump. The policy, it’s claimed, is bipartisan: Washington has woken up to the Chinese threat; a new Cold War may have already started and if not, one is inevitable sooner or later.
The conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a fundamental choice to be made on how to deal with China, and Biden is very close to picking one alternative. There’s good reason to fear it’s the wrong one.
In every China policy, two elements have to be distinguished. First, there’s the values question. There is not a lot of disagreement on this. Yes, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg once said that China is a democracy or something close to a democracy, but most people know better. The regime in China is fundamentally opposed to Western values.
That Biden understands this better than Trump is not a surprise: Trump was never much interested in promoting human rights and democracy abroad, while Biden—the last of the Cold Warriors—invariably starts from there.