Former President Donald Trump was known for his hawkish views on China, but President Joe Biden is planning to take a lighter approach.
On the campaign trail, Biden’s longtime soft tone on China, and his family’s financial connections with the country, caused critics to accuse “Beijing Biden” of being unable to confront America’s top adversary. His son Hunter has still not divested from Chinese interests, as Fox News notes.
Speaking to CBS News, Biden signaled a departure from the hawkish approach of Trump, who has been credited with changing the foreign policy conversation by bringing China’s rising power and malign activities around the globe to the center stage.
Biden said he would pressure China into compliance with international norms, also commenting on his relationship with China’s President Xi Jinping while addressing a delay in speaking with the foreign leader.
He also called Xi “very bright” and “tough” but added that he doesn’t have “a democratic, small ‘D,’ bone in his body.”
“I’ve said to him all along we need not have a conflict, but there’s going to be extreme competition,” Biden said, according to the Washington Examiner. “I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road.”
China hawks skeptical
While signaling a shift from Trump, Biden’s rhetoric has definitely gotten sharper than it once was. It wasn’t long ago that Biden said in no uncertain terms that China is “not competition.” Now, it’s “extreme competition.”
It appears that Biden is already operating within Trump’s frame, and indeed, Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Trump was “right in taking a tougher approach to China.”
Trump’s 2016 campaign highlighted China’s role in the outsourcing of American jobs, and as president, he waged a trade war to establish a more favorable economic relationship while blaming the country for a range of misdeeds, including a cover-up of the “China virus.”
Some China hawks, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), are not convinced that Biden’s latest comments reflect a change of heart.
“I’m glad to see Joe Biden singing a different tune now…but to simply rebuke President Trump for being the first president in two generations to stand up to the Chinese communist party and say he’s going to do it differently without specifying how he’s going to do it differently is not a show of strength,” he said in an interview with Fox.