Saturday, December 9, 2023

Joe Biden drops first clues about his Asia program

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A November 8 tweet from former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull captured the sentiment of many Asian political leaders upon learning that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the US presidential election:

“Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris! What a relief that you won!

In a subsequent appearance on Australian TV, Turnbill explained, “It’s a relief to have a return to normal transmission, to have an administration that is going to be consistent, that won’t make decisions through wild tweets in the news. early morning. morning, it will not come out of treaties and world alliances, distract friends and enemies.

Turnbill, of course, has some first-hand experience of the crumbling: his first official phone call with Trump in 2016 was a diplomatic disaster. But Turnbill’s successor Scott Morrison, who has often bragged about his special relationship with Trump, seemed no less thrilled with Biden’s victory.

Australia wishes you every success in your roleMorrison gushed in a tweet. In a subsequent statement, Morisson hailed Biden as a “great friend of Australia”, praised his “commitment to multilateral institutions” and pledged to invite the new president to Australia to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the military treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan have also touted their affinity for Trump; former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader Trump invited to the White House, and the two have linked up with golf.

And yet, Abe’s successor Yoshihide Suga emerged all smiles of his congratulatory phone call with the president-elect. In their 15-minute exchange, Suga told the Japanese press, Biden was keen to state that the US-Japan security alliance applies to a disputed rock outcrop in the East China Sea, which Japan controls and calls the Senkaku Islands but also China. claims as the Diaoyu Islands.

Biden’s calls with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were no less cordial. Moon worked closely with Trump to organize an unprecedented summit in 2018 to discuss denuclearization. These talks produced a storm of publicity, but not much else, and ultimately collapsed. Biden told Moon that, unlike Trump, he wouldn’t meet Kim without preconditions, but assured him that South Korea is “a pivot of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to Moon’s spokesperson.

Modi, who almost campaigned for Trump during the election, boasted Biden’s victory as “a testament to the strength and resilience of democratic traditions in the United States,” according to an Indian Foreign Ministry reading of the appeal. The two leaders discussed “common priorities” including climate change and “cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region”.

The nuances of these exchanges with America’s main Asian allies offer early clues as to how Biden’s approach to handling relations in the region will differ from that of his predecessor – and how it will not.

Biden and his advisers stressed that what will not change is the recognition that China has become America’s main strategic competitor, and that four decades of economic “engagement” failed to transform China into a liberal democracy as many US foreign policy experts had previously hoped.

Biden’s choices to lead his foreign policy team – including Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor and other political advisers such as Michele Flournoy, Ely Ratner and Kurt Campbell – have defined radical political positions on China.

In a new interview with New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman Biden said he would not immediately move to lift the 25% tariffs Trump has imposed on $ 250 billion of Chinese products and components used by American manufacturers, and that he will not Nor would give up Trump’s “ phase 1 ” trade deal requiring China to purchase around $ 200 billion in additional US goods and services in 2020 and 2021.

“I’m not going to take immediate action, and so are the tariffs,” Biden told Friedman. “I’m not going to prejudge my options.”

Blinken swore that the Biden administration “fully applyThe Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which penalizes officials, financial institutions, businesses and individuals deemed to have violated the territory’s autonomy. It seems equally unlikely that Biden will ease the restrictions Trump has placed on the sale of U.S. chipmaking technology to Chinese companies, including Huawei Technologies.

Biden said he intends to crack down on China’s “abusive practices” such as “intellectual property theft, product dumping, illegal corporate subsidies” and forcing technology transfers from companies. American companies to Chinese partners.

But he stressed the need for a “good old American industrial policy” to support investments in research and development, infrastructure and education in the country, while strengthening ties with American allies abroad. .

“The best strategy for China, I think, is one that puts each of our allies – or at least what were once our – allies on the same page,” he said.

Whether Chinese President Xi Jinping shares Malcolm Turnbill’s sense of relief over the election result is speculation. Beijing sent its congratulations to Biden on November 13, becoming one of the last great powers to do so. “We respect the choice of the American people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. “We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.”

In a few minutes, do not hesitate to join us for “On the road once more“, A virtual conversation to reflect on” The future of post-pandemic travel “. Grady and I will speak with special guests Jane Sun, CEO of, Keith Tan, CEO of Singapore Tourism Board, group chairman for Marriott International Craig S. Smith and Steve Saxon, Partner of McKinsey & Co. Our conversation will take place today at 9:00 pm Beijing time (8:00 am New York). You can join the live broadcast here.

More Eastworld news below.

Clay chandler

This edition of Eastworld was curated and produced by Grady McGregor and Naomi Xu Elegant. Reach Grady and Naomi at


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