President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping of China, on February 10, 2021, had their first telephone conversation since Biden’s inauguration. The conversation is revealing when analyzing what was left unsaid rather than the topics that were covered.
According to the latest media headlines, Joe Biden “raised fundamental concerns” about unfair trade practices and human rights. This, of course, is just repetitive of what every American President from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama has done; they mention it and then do little or nothing about the issue. It was not until President Donald Trump, through the use of onerous economic sanctions, that these concerns were underscored as serious. Based on this telephone conversation, not only did Biden fail to address the two most critical issues our country faces, but there’s no indication he let Xi know explicitly how forceful he is willing to be to protect the interests of the United States and International Law.
We must now ask, as we would of any new President who meets with the leader of one of America’s more complex competitors, will Biden be aggressive but accommodating, or just accommodating? Biden and his family’s prior business dealings with China, which gained massive wealth for the family, certainly makes the question even more critical.
Is Biden too compromised to act as a fierce and independent protector of the United States’ interests? As Vice President, he was viewed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a very accommodating negotiator. This scripted conversation on February 10, 2021, does not indicate that Biden will abandon his history of submissiveness toward a country that has been a patron of the Biden family for years.
The first pertinent issue Biden failed to raise in his two-hour conversation with Xi is addressing the CCP’s responsibility, or at the very least their negligence, for spreading a virus around the world that has, by February 15, 2021, taken 2,411,436 lives worldwide and 497,174 in the United States. It is always important for an American President to set the dynamics of a relationship with the leader of a competitive nation so there is no ambiguity of their being willing to act decisively and boldly to defend America, our values, and our allies. Taking a tough position on this crime against humanity would have accomplished that and marked a strong departure from Biden’s history of accommodation. His failure to mention it, coupled with his bizarre executive order aimed at not calling the virus the “China virus”, would give Xi great hope that Biden as President will be a continuation of submissiveness, as demonstrated when he was Vice President.
The second looming issue that Biden neglected to raise, perhaps because of his timidity, is Xi’s publicly professed goal to supplant the United States as the world’s leading nation by 2049. Xi has not been reluctant to make this goal clear. He has backed it with his continuing military buildup, his bellicose action in the South China Sea, and his inhumane conduct of imprisoning and murdering Uighurs, among others.
It is possible, though unlikely, that the CCP’s culpability and Xi’s challenge to supplant the United States were raised in the phone conversation. However, if that were the case, the failure to include some mention of it in the following days would be quite bewildering. While it is too early to draw a conclusion, the boilerplate responses do not augur Biden taking a stronger position with China than his history has indicated.
In a conversation where Joe Biden is hoping to recast his role from Vice President to President, it is imperative he clearly communicates that he understands his adversary’s goal. By failing to raise either of these issues, even briefly for a later more substantive conversation, risks Xi assuming Biden is still operating as the same Vice President who delivered China all that it desired and was, by all accounts, part of the group that practiced accommodation and denial.
Any new American President, who is a leader, in the wake of the CCP’s virus cover-up and the declaration to supplant our nation, would want to set explicit ground rules that make clear he will hold those accountable for their crimes against the world and will not tolerate any attempt to supplant a democratic nation of laws with a murderous, inhumane dictatorship of Communists.
As a nation, let us hope that the magnitude of the office that Biden has now assumed will act as an epiphany that will open President Biden’s mind to the highly realistic and imminent danger China poses to the United States and the world.