America is back...with money and a smile | He Qinglian

Published (HKT): 2021.02.24 09:23

At the recent G7 summit, Biden announced the end of Trump’s “America First” agenda and declared “America is back,” reiterating the U.S. will take responsibility for the trans-Atlantic alliance. Up until now, apart from the Pentagon still maintaining the current tactics because of the tense security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. foreign policy has been keeping the theme of “everything Trump is against, we resume.” Many items have progressed within a month.

Secretary of Defense Austin attended a NATO Defense Ministerial video conference on Feb. 17 and carried forward the message that Biden’s government will revive the alliance. One of the reasons Merkel hates Trump was that he demanded Germany to shoulder the NATO military expenses. People say friends should not discuss money. So the U.S. will no longer ask the allies to bear the military expenses according to the ratio stipulated in the agreement.

The U.S. government official indicated on Feb. 18 that it would donate a total of US$4 billion to the COVAX program, which is double the amount China promised, to demonstrate the sincerity of the U.S. rejoining the WHO.

Secretary of State Blinken announced on Feb. 19 that the U.S. is to officially rejoin the Paris Agreement, which implies the U.S. will start to fund this project again and the employment issues of many environmentalists could be resolved.

The response from the EU is courteous. Even the German media warned the EU, “don’t get carried away by the fantasy of Biden eliminating differences in transatlantic interests.”

The other resumptions include: Blinken issued a statement on Feb. 8 saying the U.S. may rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council. Before Trump’s era, the U.S. ambassador to the UN has criticized the council for becoming a club for China to use dictators for human rights abuse. Trump withdrew from the Council in June 2018. The U.S. never revealed the reason behind the move, only claimed it was part of the actions to reverse Trump’s era when the U.S. has withdrawn from several multilateral organizations and agreements.

The adjustment on Iran policy is also speeding up: agreeing to attend the Iran nuclear negotiation, reducing the restrictions on Iranian diplomats entering the U.S., canceling the document Trump’s government sent to the UN to resume the international sanctions on Iran, etc.

Biden is also busy opening the border to welcome refugees and promoting the green energy policy. Except for the Iran policy, the other policies all need a huge fund from the U.S. But not many people in Washington D.C. concern about the enormous debt crisis the U.S. is facing. Currently, the U.S. national debt is close to US$28 trillion and increasing at an annual rate of US$2 trillion. Everyone in Congress is debating whether to borrow US$1 or 2 trillion, without worrying where the money comes from and how to repay it.

Nowadays, the core of the foreign policy of the large countries is China policy. The China policy of the U.S. is a significant factor that affects the U.S.-Europe relations. France is one of the two large countries in the EU. During an interview with France Inter on Feb. 18, Le Drian, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, said, “we have started a war of development model and influence with China.” The French government will launch a new development policy bill based on geopolitical influence. Despite Biden’s inconsistent stance, many people only want to believe the part that matches their wish. But we can understand his direction if looking at the dynamics of some main policies:

1. the strategic positioning toward the CCP has changed from “hostile relationship” to “the most serious competitor”;

2. Biden’s government confirmed Huawei is an unreliable supplier but refused to keep it on the blacklist and has not banned the U.S. from investing in Chinese companies;

3. his response to the CCP’s policy on Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Biden has already made his stance on the last point clear. On Feb. 10, Biden and Xi had a two-hour telephone conversation, but both have only chosen to disclose the parts favorable to their own image. During an interview with CNN on Feb. 17, Biden finally revealed to the host what he and Xi have talked about. “I point out to him no American president can be sustained as a president if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States, and so the idea I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China, and Taiwan...and he said, he gets it. Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.” He said, which has caused an uproar.

Trump withdrew from various organizations and re-regulated the alliance because the U.S. has only the title of being the leader and the “No.1” on giving out monies. It is easy if Biden spends money to buy the “leader” title which will also make him very popular. But it would not be easy to keep the actual leadership beyond just the name. After all, the U.S. soft power no longer exists after the election in 2020.

(He Qinglian, U.S.-based scholar.)

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