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President Biden and China’s shadow


WORLD Radio - President Biden and China’s shadow

Chinese aggression coincides with Biden’s bid to get four more years

Lawmakers in a new House select committee on China from left, Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., committee Chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., gather for a tabletop war game exercise in the House Ways and Means Committee room on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in Washington. AP Photo/Ellen Knickmeyer

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Up next on The World and Everything in It, America’s relationship with China.

AUDIO: This game is going to be a Chinese invasion of Taiwan set in 2027.

Last week, a group of lawmakers in the House conducted a war game exercise to consider how the U.S. would respond if China invaded Taiwan. The three-day session showed lawmakers that a Chinese invasion would be devastating.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Meanwhile, a recent poll found that over 90% of Americans have some level of doubt about President Biden’s ability to deal effectively with China. With Biden’s recent announcement that he will run for re-election in 2024, what’s it mean for U.S.-China relations in the next few years?

Well, joining us now to talk about it is Michael Sobolik. He is a fellow in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council and previously worked as a Senate staffer writing foreign policy legislation. He’s kept a close eye on China for years.

REICHARD: Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL SOBOLIK, GUEST: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be speaking with you, Mary.

REICHARD: Let me ask this first: what is Biden’s current record on China?

SOBOLIK: Biden's foreign policy with China is mixed. On part of it, many in his administration and to spread it, the President himself agrees that the People's Republic of China is a problematic actor in the world. It's a gross human or human rights violator, they're instigating an ongoing genocide against Uyghur Muslims right now inside of China, they persecute Christians, they persecute Tibetan Buddhists. And they are belligerent they threaten Taiwan daily, they eradicated freedoms in Hong Kong, and they're a dangerous neighbor to live next to and they have global aspirations. On the other hand, the Biden administration still has this undying optimism that the behavior of the worst actors in the world can be shaped and molded from the outside. Part of that is, I think, this liberal ideology, that views that believes deep down, there's always a win win solution to every single problem. But the President also has other priorities other than standing up to China, the President's top priority is climate change. And if you look at the Politics of Climate Change, China is the leader, the lead manufacturer of solar panels around the world, they are also the lead manufacturer of electric car batteries. So when you when the President talks about climate change, and green energy at home being his top priority, if he wants to do that, he needs to cooperate with China at some level. And he needs to have open trade with China at some level, to have a steady supply of solar panels and electric car batteries. So this is one of the biggest reasons why you've seen Biden pull back on China on a number of really important cases. And where a lot of China hawks in the policy community, including myself, have been very critical of this administration, because they care more about fixing global warming, and what I would think are maybe some quixotic ways than they do about standing for human rights. And I think that's a big problem. And unfortunately, it's continued under this administration.

REICHARD: If China invaded Taiwan, is there a Pacific equivalent of NATO that would give support? Maybe compare the situation of our allies in the Pacific with Ukraine’s situation in Europe?

SOBOLIK: Yeah, there is no equivalent of NATO in the Pacific. There's none. So in Europe, with NATO, that is an approach called collective security, at an attack on one is an attack on all, a lot of a lot of your listeners will probably remember, the one and only time that that article of NATO was ever invoked, was September 11, 2001. When we were attacked by al Qaeda, the NATO alliance was a huge aid and assistance for Americans. When we responded militarily, NATO was with us. And it functioned as it should. But the best example of NATO is during the Cold War, because the strength of that cohesive Alliance prevented a hot war of the Soviet Union from breaking out. That's collective security, you pull your interests together, you pull your military planning together, you act as one. The Pacific is nothing like that right now. You have a lot of small nations, from Vietnam, and Singapore, to Malaysia, and Indonesia, and countless others in between, that are had massive economic growth during the 90s. Their political institutions have improved over time. There are, of course, issues with corruption, but they're strong states, but they live in the shadow of China. They rely on the American military for protection from living in China’s shadow, but one of the biggest reasons they became wealthy to begin with was China's economy. So as I'm talking, what I hope you're starting to pick up in your mind is this tension in the Pacific where these small countries want the economic benefit of trade with China while at the same time having the military protection of America. My fundamental contention about this 21st century world that we're all living in is that we are getting into a time where you can't really have it all anymore.

REICHARD: Michael Sobolik is a fellow in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council. Thank you for joining us, Michael!

SOBOLIK: Hey it's been my pleasure, thanks so much for having me, Mary.

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