Despite tough talk, Biden would make Beijing more powerful than ever
In a recent speech, delivered virtually before the Munich Security Conference, President Biden adamantly declared, “We have to push back against the Chinese government’s abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system.”
“Everyone must play by the same rules,” he added.
Earlier in February, the White House issued a similarly strong statement following the first phone call between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the White House, Biden raised “fundamental concerns” about various problems in China, including “coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.”
Although Biden’s statements are undoubtedly important and should be welcomed by Americans of every political persuasion, it is hard to imagine Beijing is shaking in its boots over Biden’s tough talk.
For starters, Biden has repeatedly excused, overlooked or explained away the significant dangers posed by China’s rise to power.
For example, on the campaign trail in Iowa in 2019, Biden downplayed the threat posed by China.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man! The fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the East—I mean in the West,” Biden said.
“But guess what, they’re [China] not competition for us,” Biden later added.
Biden also has a long record of refusing to take Chinese human rights violations as seriously as he should.
For instance, during the same 2019 speech in Iowa, Biden said the Chinese are “not bad folks, folks.” And as recently as last week, Biden remarked that the absolutely egregious treatment of millions of Uighurs by the Chinese government is due to “different norms” related to culture.
It is true that at times, Biden has promised repercussions for the various abuses of the Chinese government, but he has offered no meaningful specifics or concrete plans. And while describing his recent phone call with President Xi, Biden acknowledged that Xi understands – the phrase Biden used was “gets it” – that the president of the United States is politically and culturally obligated to speak out against China’s many abuses, but that there is still a lot of room for the two countries to work together. That hardly sounds like something that would inspire real change in Beijing.
And then there’s Biden’s son, Hunter. He is still heavily invested in Chinese business interests (at least for now), despite numerous waves of criticism. It is a remarkable conflict of interest, one that appears similar to the complaints routinely made by critics of the Trump family during Donald Trump’s four years in office.
But perhaps the most important reason China is almost certainly not worried about Biden’s seemingly empty threats is that many of Biden’s policies would directly and substantially benefit China.
For example, Biden’s demand for a $15 federal minimum wage would result in substantially higher costs for businesses and 1.4 million fewer jobs by 2025, according to a February report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
These additional costs would be especially problematic for U.S. manufacturing, which has long been in decline due in large part to China’s lower labor costs, currency manipulation, substandard working conditions and other economic policies.
If the $15 minimum wage were to go into effect, one economist with Moody’s has predicted that as many 160,000 manufacturing jobs could be lost in California alone.
China would unquestionably be the biggest beneficiary of these and other related job losses, as increasingly more businesses would look overseas to buy lower-priced products.
Other policies proposed by the Biden administration would give China a substantial competitive advantage, too.
For example, Biden’s green-energy infrastructure plan would “put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.” It would do so largely by requiring Americans to buy electric cars and to get their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels.
If the United States, the world’s largest economy, were to adopt Biden’s energy plan, it could put Beijing in control of much of the U.S. energy market.
In order to build the billions of solar panels and more than a million wind turbines likely needed to power a fossil-fuel-free United States, it would require an unprecedented increase in rare earth mineral mining and processing — an industry dominated by China.
As a 2019 report by Reuters notes, “China supplied 80% of the rare earths imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017,” and the country is “home to at least 85% of the world’s capacity to process rare earth ores into material manufacturers can use.”
Building the industrial infrastructure needed to rival China in this area would be nearly impossible to achieve in a short period.
“It would take years to build enough processing plants to match China’s processing capacity of 220,000 tonnes—which is five times the combined capacity of the rest of the world,” Reuters further reported.
China would also enjoy even greater economic advantages if Biden’s green-energy mandates were to go into effect, because of China’s unwillingness to shift its economy toward higher-cost wind and solar energy.
Despite numerous promises to move toward green energy, China has consistently invested massive amounts of funding into the lowest-cost forms of energy available, including coal.
Voice of America reported this month that “China put 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity into operation in 2020, according to new international research, more than three times the amount built elsewhere around the world.”
There is simply no way American businesses, especially those in energy-intensive industries, would be able to compete with Chinese companies if U.S. energy costs were to be substantially higher, and that would be all but guaranteed under Biden’s green-energy mandates.
The economic and political rivalry between China and the United States could prove to be the defining issue of this century, a claim even President Biden would no doubt agree with. But Biden’s policies – like those of many of his predecessors, including President Trump – would not do nearly enough to give America the long-term economic, political and military strength needed to fend off China’s advancements.
The Biden administration must do better, or else the world will soon be consumed by Beijing’s influence and dominated by its values.
Justin Haskins is the editorial director of the Heartland Institute. Follow him on Twitter @JustinTHaskins.
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