CCG releases report China and the United States in the Biden Era

January 19 , 2021

January 20, 2021, marked the inauguration ceremony for the 46th US president, ushering in the Biden era. With multiple crises looming, questions remain over whether President Biden can restore the role of the US in the world, whether China-US relations can return to a track of greater cooperation, and over the future of globalization.  
 
Based on long-term studies of China-US relations and insights shared by experts on US politics and China-US relations, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) released the report of China and the United States in the Biden Era: Trends and Policy Responses.
 
This report examines the domestic drivers of the incoming Biden administration’s policy orientation; outlines changes in the new administration’s foreign policy approach – most prominently on multilateralism, global governance and free trade; and explores the expected dynamics of China-US relations in the next four years. The reports also proposes 12 policy recommendations to address opportunities and challenges in the Biden era.
 
The report considers Biden’s presidency a positive signal for globalization’s revival and an opportunity for China and the United States to resuscitate cooperation. The report argues that the Biden administration will usher in a new chapter for US foreign policy by returning to multilateralism. The United States in the Biden era is expected to return to the multilateral stage in three aspects – global governance, regional security and free trade.
 
The report also considers Biden’s presidency a positive signal for China-US relations. First of all, US policy towards China will become more rational. Second, trade negotiations are expected to restart. Third, fields of multilateral cooperation will expand. Fourth, people to people exchanges are expected to recover.
 
Features of the Biden administration and the direction of its foreign relations
 
The first part of the report is The Democrats’ Governing Base in the Biden Era. Through analysis on three dimensions – the composition of Biden’s team, the deep-seated domestic conflicts and political ecology behind the election, and the limits set by Trump before he stepped down, the report predicts that Biden’s administration will show five features:
 
First, return to rationality, professionalism, and a more establishment-orientation while continuing guiding principles of the Obama era.
 
Second, prioritize the domestic agenda and focus on fighting against COVID-19, improving the economy and people’s livelihood and bridging social cleavages.
 
Third, Democrats’ values dominated by identity politics will return to the political center, specifically: at home, attaching importance to civil rights, environmental protection and social equality; abroad, pursuing multilateralism based on value alliances.
 
Fourth, it is hard for the political system to eliminate the domestic impact brought by globalization. Consideration of politics and security will be more important than concerns of economy and efficiency.
 
Fifth, the China containment policy is still a bipartisan consensus and may even be strengthened.
 
The second part of the report is Foreign Relations Outlook of Biden Era. According to the analysis of the report, the Biden administration will usher in a new chapter for foreign policy by returning to multilateralism. The United States in the Biden era will return to the multilateral stage in three aspects – global governance, regional security and free trade. The campaign slogan of the Biden administration is Build Back Better. In order to realize the slogan of America is Back, returning to multilateralism and rejoining international organizations and multilateral agreements will be important measures. Arms control will become an important agenda item for the Biden administration to realize its commitment on regional security governance and restore its relations with allies. The report predicts that in the future, it is possible for the Biden administration to attach more importance to conduct bilateral and even multilateral nuclear-related negotiations. On the issue of trade, different from the protectionism that Trump pursued, Biden’s administration will concentrate on trade rules. In addition to that, the United States might start the reform of the WTO.
 
The competition-cooperation dynamics of China-US relations
The third part of the report is Biden era, the next stop of China-US relations. According to the analysis of the report, Biden’s presidency is a positive signal for China-US relations. First of all, US policy towards China will become more rational. Second, trade negotiations are expected to restart. Third, fields of multilateral cooperation will expand. Fourth, people to people exchanges are expected to recover.
The report shows that the essence of major power competition like China and the US has its structural drivers. The China containment strategy formulated in the Obama era and will not change because of the shift of Trump to Biden. Instead, the Biden administration is facing domestic governance challenges and the urgency of containing the virus and restoring the economy. What’s more, diplomatic principles of multilateral alliances and the Democrats’ values of the Obama era will return. All of these trends will tend to make China-US relations more complex. Nonetheless, Biden administration’s domestic priority and multilateral trend of foreign policy will still create important opportunities for improvement of China-US relations and promote relations of “cooperative-competition.”
Based on Biden’s campaign commitments and cabinet picks, the report predicts that the Biden administration intends to reshape multilateralism, promote free trade and return to traditional diplomacy. However, regarding policies towards China, it is highly possible for the Biden administration to retain a tough attitude on economy and trade, science and technology and military affairs.
 
12 Policy recommendations to address opportunities and challenges of the Biden Era
According to the report, faced with potential competition and conflict, China needs to prepare comprehensive measures in a timely manner and formulate emergency response plans pointedly, so as to expand opportunities for cooperation on trade, cultural and diplomatic issues, while at the same time countering US pressure and proactively safeguarding national interests. To achieve this goal, the fourth part of the report 12 policy recommendations of CCG proposes the following 12 policy recommendations to address opportunities and challenges in the Biden era.
First, resume bilateral high-level, multi-channel dialogue and exchange mechanisms between China and the US.
 
Second, establish a trilateral dialogue and coordination mechanism including China, the US and Europe, and convene a vaccine summit to promote global cooperation on pandemic control and global economic recovery.
 
Third, propose a global climate summit that calls for an expansion of the G7 to a “G10” including China, Russia and India.
 
Fourth, explore avenues for the US and China to join the CPTPP, support WTO modernization, and expand RCEP stakeholders to include the US.
 
Fifth, ease restrictions on market access by both US and Chinese governments, with Washington relaxing sanctions on Chinese firms such as Huawei, TikTok, Tencent, Alibaba and Xiaomi and Beijing opening its market to American high-tech companies including Google, Twitter and Facebook.
 
Sixth, redress the unilateral tariffs levied on Chinese exports to the US, implement the Phase One Trade Deal in full, and accelerate the pace towards the negotiation of a Phase Two Deal.
 
Seventh, revive talks for a US-China Bilateral Investment Agreement to facilitate two-way flows of FDI.
 
Eighth, promote China-US infrastructure cooperation via direct financing, greenfield investment, capacity building, and other measures that align with Biden’s infrastructure drive and US energy exports.
 
Ninth, engage Washington on the Belt and Road Initiative within a framework of multilateral cooperation on infrastructure development financing.
 
Tenth, strengthen ties between Chinese and American subnational governments to tap into local forces supporting increased engagement in both countries.
 
Eleventh, unblock non-governmental and cultural exchanges between scholars, journalists and students between the US and China, and restore the momentum of education cooperation.
 
Twelfth, revisit the merits of multi-party talks on regional security issues such as the Iran nuclear deal and nuclear proliferation on the Korea peninsular, and promote economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
The report argues that the Biden administration conveys a positive signal for restarting and reforming, and at the same time offers new opportunities for China’s globalization. It also highlights how the Biden administration will face multiple challenges as populism stirred up by Trump will ferment further into US politics.
 
Although the new administration will continue to deal with China-US relations from the perspective of major country competition, its focus will become more domestic. The US will likely tend to compete with China through improving its own strength, leveraging foreign policy and soft power and other rational channels, in contrast to the Trump administration. Against such a backdrop, the report illustrates the common interests of China and the US regarding trade, people to people exchanges, and global governance, which will support the recovery of China-US relations in the Biden era.
Since it was founded in 2008, CCG has been committed to studies on global governance, China-US relations and China-US economy and trade. At critical points in the development of China-US relations, CCG has released reports, including 10 Recommendations to Tackle with China-US Trade Tensions, Understanding the US-China Trade War: Analyses and CCG Recommendations, China-US Trade Relations and Challenges: Past, Present, Future and Policy Options, Prospects for China-US Trade: Seeking a Rational Resolution via the “Argentina Consensus”
 
On January 19th, 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration, CCG released Trump’s Coming Era: Challenges, Opportunities and Policy Response. From 2017 to 2019, CCG organized experts’ delegation to visit the US and carry out track II diplomacy on four occasions. The activities contained dialogues with key US think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Cato Institute, and communication with experts in business sector, including the US-China Business Council, the National Committee on US-China Relations, the International Trade Committee and other business leaders, and released researching reports.
 
Due to the pandemic, international travel has been restricted. CCG launched its “China and Globalization Webinar Series” in 2020 and has successfully held more than 60 online meetings. Dozens of US think tank experts discussed and communicated with Chinese top experts, bridging the gap in the freezing era of China-US relations and making proposals to both governments. Since the US election, CCG has held multiple seminars with a focus on the Biden era, studying the trend of bilateral relations and globalization in the future. 

 

Keyword

Topical News See more