Is Biden's Team Divided on China Policy?

Is Biden's Team Divided on China Policy?

Is Joe Biden’s team divided on the country’s China policy? Or is it simply the force of lobbyists that is giving this impression?

Since assuming his presidency, U.S. President Joe Biden has followed Trump’s tariff policy and sanctions against China, agreeing with the Trump administration’s determination that the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang constitutes genocide and crimes against humanity.

But unlike Trump, the Biden administration also considers climate change as an “existential threat” while seeing China as the greatest geopolitical test of the 21st century, says Chan Kung for Anbound.

Given that China is already the world’s largest carbon emitter and owns half of the world’s coal-fired power plants, the Biden administration must work more closely with China if it wants to reach its goal of keeping global temperature rise at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Reports suggest that talks between Beijing and Washington on climate change and human rights, trade and democracy in Hong Kong or the rights of Taiwan to be independent are other issues to be discussed at various levels.

The Washington Post revealed that discussions between Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, had previously stalled on these matters.

The report said that Kerry has repeatedly pushed for direct diplomacy between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, arguing that improved bilateral ties could produce better results in Scotland.

White House aides, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, are sceptical that the United States can persuade China to reduce emissions. Sullivan said at a security conference this spring that he would not trade cooperation with China on climate change as a favour from Beijing to the United States.

He also repeated this position during a meeting in Zurich earlier this month with Yang Jiechi, the Communist Party’s highest-ranking diplomatic official.

The Washington Post reports that liberal lawmakers and climate activists are concerned about tensions between the U.S. and China and fear that the upcoming Scottish climate conference will ultimately be inconclusive.

The report said Kerry has advocated a phone call between Biden and Xi since early summer to avoid such an outcome, but Sullivan disagreed and argued that such a call would be premature.

After Sullivan’s six-hour meeting with Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi in Zurich last month, the U.S. and China agreed on a virtual summit between Biden and Xi Jinping before the end of the year.

The original version is published on Anbound.