The US will continue to strengthen ties with allies to counter China’s rise

October 22, 2020
SCMP Updates
Whether Donald Trump gets re-elected or Joe Biden wins, there will not be a sea change in the US policies towards China and the strategic direction of strengthening engagement with allies and partners in the Asia Pacific region as well as Europe, according to the panellists at a recent SCMP webinar that discussed the impact of shifting multilateralism under the US presidency. 

David Firestein, CEO of the George HW Bush Foundation for US-China Relations, believes that China, despite its rise as a global superpower, does not aspire to be the United States 2.2, the so-called world’s policeman, with boots on the ground in 100 countries. As with the two other panellists, he condemns the trade war that the current US President Donald Trump launched in 2018, pointing out that the US trade deficit with China is now larger than it was before Trump took office. He believes and wishes that if Biden gets elected, he would remove or cut the tariffs on Chinese imports since “tariffs are taxes on American people”.  

Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it is Trump’s administration, from Pence to Pompeo, that has been working to strengthen ties with allies such as Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s growing military power in the Indo-Pacific region, while recently France and the UK have also been more engaged in the South China Sea. Trump’s administration has also made progress in countering the influence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative such as the establishment of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to provide funding that supports the building of infrastructure projects, especially in developing countries. 

Whether it is Trump or Biden who takes the White House, diplomatic works to strengthen relationships with the US’s traditional and new allies will not change, she said, adding that the Biden administration will be more conservative in terms of policies towards the pandemic and climate change, however.

Jeremie O Waterman, president of the China Centre and vice president for Greater China at the US Chamber of Commerce, agreed with the two other panellists on the point that punitive tariffs on Chinese imports have not brought manufacturing jobs back to the US so far. He said the Trump administration has lacked an overarching framework for engaging allies and a coherent approach on trade policy or consistent approach that brings allies together on the most important regulatory issues of concern. 

“We have to engage allies in a systematic way … we have to work together with allies on multilateral policies around security and competitions with China. If Biden wins, he will seek to strengthen ties with our Asian partners and draw Europe even closer to form better trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic partnerships. Overall, I’m fairly optimistic about our security partnership and alliances.”

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