AMAC Exclusive – By Neil Banerji
As President Joe Biden meets face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on Wednesday, it will be against the backdrop of a foreign policy strategy that has offered nothing but appeasement to Beijing.
In a letter to Biden last week, Republicans on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party slammed Biden for his perceived weakness toward China and outlined his record of appeasement, saying that his “recent prioritization of bilateral engagement has come at an unacceptable cost to ‘competitive’ or defensive actions that have been delayed, scuttled, or otherwise dropped in an effort to get the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to the table— all for poorly defined benefit.”
Specifically, the committee noted that, over the past two years, Biden has not sanctioned even one Chinese official for destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy or committing genocide in Xinjiang.
“Your administration has also reduced the annual number of PRC entities added to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List compared to the previous administration, even while our tech competition with the PRC has grown in importance,” the committee wrote. “While your administration’s public position on competition and cooperation with the PRC has remained the same, it is clear that competitive actions have been sacrificed to advance aimless, zombie-like engagement.”
Despite (or perhaps because of) these and other efforts at what the Biden administration describes as “building a floor under the relationship” between Washington and Beijing, China has only grown more aggressive toward the United States and its allies under Biden’s watch, proving once again that appeasement only emboldens autocrats.
Soon after Biden took office, China began more regular incursions of Taiwanese waters and airspace. Late last month, a Chinese jet nearly collided with an American B-52 bomber over the South China Sea. In June, a Chinese ship came within a few hundred yards of a U.S. destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.
China has also refused to apologize or take responsibility for a spy balloon which floated over the mainland United States for more than a week in February. Although Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his planned trip to China over the incident, Biden later outright dismissed the threat, saying it was “more embarrassing” for Beijing “than it was intentional.”
Throughout the Russia-Ukraine war, China has offered an economic lifeline to Moscow, more than doubling purchases of Russian oil in a direct snub to Washington and the Western alliance. Chinese banks are also extending billions in loans to counter Western sanctions, turning the conflict into an effective proxy confrontation against the United States.
Following Hamas’s attack on Israel, Xi dispatched Chinese warships to the Middle East around the same time the United States announced the deployment of a carrier group. China and Russia have since announced plans to work together to find a “two-state solution” in a clear bid to compete with U.S. influence in the region.
The Pentagon has also announced that China has bolstered the strength of its nuclear arsenal under Biden’s watch and is set to accelerate further in the years ahead.
Nevertheless, Biden has continued to offer concessions to Beijing. In June, Biden delayed economic sanctions in the hopes of reviving “diplomatic ties.” Just before the APEC summit, reports surfaced that the White House was also open to lifting sanctions on certain elements of the Chinese government involved in human rights abuses.
Ostensibly, this will be done in exchange for China cracking down on the production of fentanyl which is often smuggled into the United States via Mexico. However, China has shown only halfhearted effort on such endeavors before, and critics have argued that a crackdown on drug trafficking shouldn’t require the United States to enable human rights abuses inside China.
This pattern of appeasing Beijing in exchange for nothing tangible in return has defined Biden’s China policy. In their letter, the House China committee warns that Wednesday’s meeting with Xi “presents a final opportunity to reverse your misguided policy and challenge Beijing to demonstrate its seriousness about improving U.S.- PRC relations.”
The committee outlined ten demands that Biden should make of Xi at the meeting, including that China release all wrongfully detained U.S. hostages, cease all near-collisions of PRC vessels and U.S. warships, stop operating in Taiwanese airspace, stop forced labor programs in Xinjiang, and do more to stop fentanyl shipments.
The political urgency for Biden to reverse his failures on China is clear: in a recent Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll, Trump is beating Biden 46 percent to 34 percent on the question of who Americans trust more to handle U.S.-China relations.
But unless Biden does more to stand up to Beijing over the next year, the biggest threat from his China appeasement may be to U.S. national security overall.
Neil Banerji is a proud Las Vegas resident and former student at the University of Oxford. In his spare time, he enjoys reading Winston Churchill and Edmund Burke.