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It’s too late for Joe Biden to make friends with China

Yesterday's man. Credit: Getty

July 10, 2023 - 1:00pm

Janet Yellen had a pretty successful trip in Beijing at the end of last week. The US Treasury secretary highlighted that, in spite of recent tensions, the two countries set a record in 2022 for bilateral trade. She also emphasised the need to coordinate on climate policy, a long-running cornerstone of the Sino-American relationship.

But when it came to America’s stance toward China on economic issues, things got a bit rockier. Yellen tried to assure her Beijing counterparts that the controls the American government were putting on investment into China would be “highly targeted and clearly directed narrowly at a few sectors where we have specific national security concerns”.

It is unlikely that the Chinese view the situation this way. The initial restrictions that America put on semiconductor exports to China seemed quite obviously aimed at stifling Beijing’s ability to keep up with US technological development. These sanctions are not “highly targeted” but, rather, extremely broad, covering a sector that is crucial for future development. Never mind that experts in the industry have said that these sanctions will not work and will only lead to the Chinese developing their own, lower-cost industry: it is the intention that matters when it comes to diplomacy.

Washington’s approach would appear to be confused. When the semiconductor sanctions were first unveiled, it looked like American policymakers had decided to launch an all-out trade war with China. But business leaders immediately pushed back by visiting Beijing themselves, presumably explaining to American policymakers behind the scenes that this approach was completely impractical given the current state of the country’s manufacturing base.

Now it looks like the White House is trying to have it both ways. They want to hang on to the policies that they have already imposed, as to do otherwise would be to lose face. Yet they want to alleviate some of the tensions between the two countries to avoid an all-out trade war — which would be devastating for both parties. This does not appear to be going so well, though, with China now threatening to restrict exports of gallium and germanium — two elements that are indispensable to America’s high-tech industry.

The reality is that President Biden will find it very difficult to walk back on the policies he has backed on China. He will also find it hard to establish cordial relations with Xi Jinping after calling him a “dictator”, among other provocations. Full normalisation of relations with China will only take place when there is a new president.

Indeed, Biden’s days in the White House might be numbered. Few of the China-related policies he has pursued while in office could be called a success. The world seems a lot more chaotic after three years of Biden than it did before, even under the often volatile Donald Trump. Perhaps it is no coincidence that leading liberal publications like the New York Times are beginning to peel back the skin on the scandals surrounding Biden’s son Hunter. There may be a changing of the guard sooner than we think.


Philip Pilkington is a macroeconomist and investment professional, and the author of The Reformation in Economics

philippilk

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

What do they need Biden’s ‘Friendship’ for?
Joe “10% to the Big Guy” Biden has already been bought and paid for.

Glyn R
Glyn R
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

That much has been clear for some time. It is extraordinary to me that so few have paid any heed to the evidence that has been revealed over the past months in the US.
Things are getting sticky for Biden and a major distraction is called for.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Glyn R

The silence – or at the very least, wilful incuriosity – from the mainstream media, when faced with this clear and obvious evidence of corruption, is more worrying than the Biden-grift itself.
I marvel that any of these people can call themselves journalists, given how hard they fight to avoid noticing, or bringing us, the truth.

Malik Abraham
Malik Abraham
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

“wilful incuriosity….” You are a gentleman and a scholar by avoiding calling these “journalists” court scriveners and craven propagandists. You don’t move ahead in the current iteration of American corporatism w/o absolute compliance. ESG! ESG! ESG! lol

Malik Abraham
Malik Abraham
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

“wilful incuriosity….” You are a gentleman and a scholar by avoiding calling these “journalists” court scriveners and craven propagandists. You don’t move ahead in the current iteration of American corporatism w/o absolute compliance. ESG! ESG! ESG! lol

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Glyn R

The silence – or at the very least, wilful incuriosity – from the mainstream media, when faced with this clear and obvious evidence of corruption, is more worrying than the Biden-grift itself.
I marvel that any of these people can call themselves journalists, given how hard they fight to avoid noticing, or bringing us, the truth.

Glyn R
Glyn R
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

That much has been clear for some time. It is extraordinary to me that so few have paid any heed to the evidence that has been revealed over the past months in the US.
Things are getting sticky for Biden and a major distraction is called for.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

What do they need Biden’s ‘Friendship’ for?
Joe “10% to the Big Guy” Biden has already been bought and paid for.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 year ago

Hard to blame the US for this situation. China has been sabre rattling and threatening its neighbors for a decade not. Their military buildup (especially the amphibious assault capabilities and man-made island bases) is clearly offensively oriented.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

As is their rhetoric on Taiwan, their “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, their crackdown on Hong Kong, etc. And of course Xi’s cult of personality and his now very obvious desire to elevate himself to the pantheon with Mao.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

This situation has been brewing for several decades. In the industry where I work, China blatantly steals trade secrets. It no longer even pretends to do otherwise.
The problem is the US, and the West, have tolerated this behavior for too long and must now take fairly drastic action to reverse the trend.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

As is their rhetoric on Taiwan, their “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, their crackdown on Hong Kong, etc. And of course Xi’s cult of personality and his now very obvious desire to elevate himself to the pantheon with Mao.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur G

This situation has been brewing for several decades. In the industry where I work, China blatantly steals trade secrets. It no longer even pretends to do otherwise.
The problem is the US, and the West, have tolerated this behavior for too long and must now take fairly drastic action to reverse the trend.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 year ago

Hard to blame the US for this situation. China has been sabre rattling and threatening its neighbors for a decade not. Their military buildup (especially the amphibious assault capabilities and man-made island bases) is clearly offensively oriented.