Biden, China, foreign direct investment, Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden laptop, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Taiwan, tariffs
President Biden’s China policy is one of the biggest mysteries I’ve ever encountered. It’s not just that he’s continued Trump administration policies that he strongly criticized as a 2020 candidate for the White House (notably the former President’s towering and sweeping tariffs). It’s not just that he’s gone much further than Trump (notably on controls of exports to China’s high tech industries and on several pledges to come to Taiwan’s defense if the Chinese attack the island). It’s not just that on other policy fronts he’s been much less hawkish – as on some Chinese acquisitions of sensitive U.S. assets (see, e.g., here) and the recent spy balloon mess.
It’s not even just that he’s supported any hard line (and long overdue) approaches to China after a lifetime in public service strongly supporting the strategy that’s actually helped enable China’s development as a powerful, dangerous U.S. adversary.
After all, it’s still reasonable to argue that that was then and this is now, that the China threat is now front and center rather than simply potential, and that Mr. Biden has changed with the times. Or that the President has concluded that, whatever his personal beliefs might be, he’s had no choice but to shift with an American public that’s grown deeply alarmed by that China threat.
It’s that the Biden China policies have been in my view overall praiseworthy despite clear evidence that before his election, he and his family were greatly enriched by the Beijing regime – and that despite his indignant denials, he knew about at least some of this all the while.
There are his son Hunter’s lucrative dealings with various Chinese entities and individuals that were amply documented in materials found on his laptop computer. There’s the email showing that “the big guy” would get a ten percent share of the business created by one of these agreements. There are numerous other indications that Hunter’s finances were completely commingled with those of the rest of his family – including his father. And now there’s the revelation that Chinese donors have given major sums to not one but two American universities once these schools set up facilities related to the former U.S. Senator from Delaware and Vice President – and that the so-called research center set up in his name at the University of Pennsylvania paid him handsomely for token on-campus appearances.
Yet the President’s record unmistakably shows, despite endless charges by his (overwhelmingly Republican) and conservative critics, that he’s by no means been consistently, much less mainly, soft on China. So what could be going on here?
One possible explanation, which I’ve seen nowhere else, is that suggested by the headline: that Mr. Biden has simply decided to fleece the Chinese – to take the money and run. Not that he’s chosen to confront Beijing at every possible opportunity, or turn up the pressure to the max. Rather, despite his family’s ill-gotten gains, he’s concluded (whether rightly or wrongly is a separate matter) that he can defy China’s will with impunity whenever he believes necessary on the merits or politically expedient. Or both.
This theory has the advantage of simplicity. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right. For example, if the President has decided to shaft the Chinese, wouldn’t that mean recklessly risking Beijing’s exposure of its bribery campaign – which could well end Mr. Biden’s political career and open him to criminal and even worse charges if he needed to leave office? And yet, this course of action could backfire on China as well, whatever its effects on the President, by hardening anti-Beijing American opinion even further and turning U.S. policy even more confrontational for a very long time.
Of course, this is all speculation. But it’s more consistent with the ambiguous evidence than either the claim that Mr. Biden has sold out to China, or that there’s nothing to see about the bribery and influence-peddling allegations at all. I’m hoping that upcoming Congressional investigations shed some more light on the matter. In the meantime, what do you readers think?