Biden's confusion on China

The Biden administration continues to appear confused on the China dossier. During his recent trip to China, the US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, took a rather conciliatory tone towards the Dragon. “Complete economic separation is neither practical nor desirable,” La said on Friday Yellen. “We reject the idea of ​​decoupling our economy from China,” he added. The Treasury Secretary then hoped that relations between Washington and Beijing would move in a “constructive direction.”

There has certainly been no shortage of criticism in Beijing. There Yellen complained about China's excess production of green energy products, also accusing the Dragon of “unfair practices”. Not only. The Treasury secretary also threatened “significant consequences” if Chinese companies “support Russia's war against Ukraine.” However, despite these divergences, it is clear that the Treasury Secretary's words against “decoupling” should be read as a significant hand extended to Beijing. Among other things, on Saturday, the Yellen agreed with the Chinese vice prime minister, He Lifengto start talks in favor of “balanced” economic growth.

The Treasury Secretary's trip occurred a few days after the last phone call between Joe Biden And Xi Jinping: a conversation in which, despite saying they wanted to cooperate on some fronts, the two leaders appeared quite distant on Taiwan, TikTok, trade practices and the Ukrainian crisis. Furthermore, the overall state of relations between Washington and Beijing is fluctuating. A few days ago, US military officials met with their counterparts in Hawaii to “discuss support for maritime and air operational security and professionalism.” Yet, at the end of January, the Pentagon included a dozen Chinese companies on the list of companies suspected of collaborating with the People's Liberation Army. The same Biden he has often had attitudes bordering on contradiction towards the Dragon in recent years (look especially at the Taiwanese issue). This situation has its roots in the fact that the current American administration is internally divided over the Chinese dossier.

It is no mystery that, within the Biden administration, the Yellen represents one of the profiles most inclined to take a soft line towards the Dragon. The then special envoy for the climate was also placed in a relaxed position, John Kerry: relaxing positions also embodied by his successor, John Podesta. On the other hand, the American National Security Council is oriented towards a line of greater severity towards the Dragon. The problem is that the weak leadership of Biden has so far failed to find an effective synthesis between these discordant positions: which, as we mentioned, has produced a series of contradictory attitudes. Contradictory attitudes that have contributed to weakening US deterrence towards the Dragon (just think that, starting from 2022, Chinese military pressure on Taiwan has significantly increased).

But this is only one side of the problem. Yes, because an electoral issue also emerges on the horizon. The electoral coalition that, in 2020, brought Biden the White House is divided on the Chinese question. On the one hand, there are the large economic realities that, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, are pushing for détente with Beijing: it is precisely these worlds that the Yellen. On the other, the blue collar workers of Rust Belt they call for a tough approach on trade — an approach closer to the one that was taken by the Trump administration. This is a relevant dilemma for Biden a few months before the presidential elections.