Democracy vs Autocracy: Biden Sets Out Challenge of US China Relations

Comparing Xi Jinping to Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden warned this month of “a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies. That’s what’s at stake here. We’ve got to prove democracy works.” Fireworks at the first bilateral meeting of the Biden era underscored the great challenges facing US China relations. This article is a summary of important US China news so far in March 2021.

“I see stiff competition with China,” Biden said at his first press conference as president. “They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch, because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”

In Anchorage, Alaska, the top diplomats of both nations levelled sharp rebukes of the others’ policies in a rare public display highlighting the turmoil of China US relations. Antony Blinken accused China of undermining global stability with its actions towards Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan.

Yang Jiechi accused the US of having a “cold war mentality”, and charging Washington with using its military and financial clout to “suppress” other nations and to “incite some countries to attack China”. Yang said America “does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength”.

The USA and its allies in Canada, Britain and the EU announced sanctions on several Chinese officials alleged to have links with a campaign against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. China hit back with its own sanctions. In Brussels, Blinken said there is broad US support for the Biden administration’s commitment to rebuilding and revitalising US alliances in the wake of global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and “an increasingly aggressive China.”

Unable to match the pace of China’s military budget increases, the Pentagon must restructure and work more closely with allies to improve efficiency and counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness, the USA’s top Pacific naval commander told Congress. China could invade Taiwan within the next six years, he warned. Capturing Taiwan is China’s “number-one priority”, and “this problem is much closer to us than most think,” added his nominated successor.

“The biggest source of chaos in the present-day world is the US,” argued Xi Jinping. “The US is the biggest threat to our country’s development and security.” That warning, behind closed doors, reinforces how Xi seeks to balance confidence and caution as China strides ahead while other countries struggle with the pandemic.

US lawmakers reintroduced legislation that would ban some Chinese companies from accessing US capital markets. Amid all the distrust, China’s $1trillion sovereign wealth fund is scouting for long-term investment opportunities in the USA.

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