A war with no end

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A war with no end

Kim Dong-ho
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Americans chose moderate liberal Joe Biden as their next president over populist Donald Trump. Biden is expected to collect more taxes from the corporate sector and wealthy people, drastically increase the minimum wage, expand free health care through massive federal spending and ditch the “America First” policy in favor of free trade and multilateralism.

But there’s one thing that will remain the same in the neoliberalism era — the economic competition against China. Chances of the Sino-U.S. competition increasing are growing. The New York Times reported that Biden’s views on China have hardened since he served as vice president in the Barack Obama administration. As economic competition with China is directly linked to security, a new Biden administration will likely maintain rivalry with China.

Biden used to be pro-Chinese to the point of being called an “old friend” by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In 1979, Biden was part of the first congressional delegation to visit China after the countries normalized relations, and for the better part of the last four decades, he had maintained close ties with Beijing. Yet in a recently published article, China’s state-controlled Global Times quoted diplomatic pundits as saying that Biden will try to rally allies in Europe, Japan and Korea to stand up to China on human rights issues and democracy, adding that U.S.-China relations could grow worse than they were in the Trump administration. The United States may be divided at home, but when it comes to fulfilling the goal of the century — containing China — it stands united.

Biden has lambasted Trump’s China approach, saying the U.S. trade deficit with China has only grown during his term, while China’s intellectual property thefts have gone unaddressed. But Biden does not have a clear solution either. For the United States to seize control over the world order once again, cooperation with China is needed. That’s why Biden is expected to use a more sophisticated — and coordinated — approach to Beijing while taking on a harder line on China’s repression of human rights, the New York Times reported.

Biden’s first task in office will be to revitalize the U.S. economy. The president-elect has repeatedly promised to rebuild the middle class by creating new jobs, in part by a four-year multitrillion-dollar stimulus package that includes investments in infrastructure, clean energy and health care. As tax revenues won’t be enough to carry out the initiatives, the plan would include issuance of treasury bonds worth $2.5 trillion. As the dollar continues to fall as a result, America is now at a critical juncture. If the Biden administration fails to revive the economy, it will take a serious blow.

Both the United States and China have had their flaws exposed to the world. The U.S. presidential election showed a large gap between the haves and have-nots. Nearly 47 million Americans are without medical insurance today, and resuscitating the declining manufacturing industries of the Rust Belt will be essential for the nation to restore its global standing. China appears to be handling the coronavirus pandemic well, but we never know when its form of state capitalism will start to unravel — or crumble completely. Beijing is reinforcing the Communist Party’s control over the private sector by halting the initial public offering of Ant Group, the internet finance giant, and forcing private businesses to set up Communist Party committees. If such moves continue, China’s rapid economic growth could one day come to a halt.

No one can guess who the winner will be in this long-running U.S.-China competition. But one thing is clear: Whoever wins in the Biden-Xi era will determine the fate of the hegemonic race. In the meantime, America will try to stop China from catching up, while China continues to strive to outpace America in an uphill battle with Uncle Sam.
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