As 2021 enters its beginning days the geopolitical and geo-economic analysts are all asking the major global question today: what the Biden administration’s party line is or will be the day after Trump (even if he has to be dragged out) leaves office and the new team takes over.
In the past few months past some international analysts, especially the more aggressive anti-US pundits, have taken the cue from Biden’s early 2020 tirade against President Xi Jinping tagging him as “thug”, but I argued that it was campaign rhetoric as Trump was accusing Biden of being soft on China.
The Western mainstream media speculates a lot and a significant sector there always looks to finding an issue to stir up controversy over China, but since winning and waiting for his inauguration Biden has tiptoed around the China issue saying only that China has to “play by the rules”.
But who is not playing by the rules? China has been assiduously working through all the multilateral institutions such as WTO in trade while the US has been stonewalling selection of new WTO arbitrators, and everybody knows what the US has done in withdrawing from the WHO.
Blinken, the new Secretary of State
One of the first appointments Biden made to his cabinet is Antony Blinken, as Secretary of State and alter-ego of the president on foreign policy. Blinken has spoken with some specificity on US relations with China. such as the trade war, the “decoupling” and human rights.
Even before the November US elections Antony Blinken already stated publicly his views, and since Biden has been taciturn analysts turn to Blinken. In September 2020 Blinken already opined that the “decoupling” from China is “unrealistic” while fences must be mended with EU to confront China.
The EU instead strengthened fences signing the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) firming up EU free trade with China, seemingly signed in a rush after 7 years of haggling – apparently to preempt the incoming Biden administration from imposing on it later.
Blinken’s views on China’s Human Rights conditions are linked to the issues of freedom and democracy in Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong all of which are noisy but baseless allegations and actions limited to innocuous sanctions on individual Chinese officials and loud trade sanctions with low impact.
Blinken appointment, a blink or a wink?
The international and Asian regional media is generally portraying Antony Blinken as – as the South China Morning Post put it – “Someone Beijing can work with”. Blinken is certainly no Pompeo who went out of his way, and way, way out, to gratuitously aggravate, irritate, provoke, exacerbate relations with and reactions from China.
The more passionate supporters of China analyzing Biden’s appointment of Blinken as top man on foreign policy in his cabinet may say that it now looks like the U.S. “blinked” first in the US-China face-off since Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” in 2011, but “wink” may be more politic and delightful a word to describe what it could be.
I’d rather think it both a “blink” and a “wink”, the way diplomacy is, and reflected in the many Western cogitations about its dilemmas with China in the time of its many existential crises from Covid-19 catastrophe to, Black Lives Matter to the impending Dollar collapse ad nausea. This is not a good time to be the US president.
Weighing down on the new US president’s mind are all these problems, plus the awareness of many members of the Western intelligentsia, as written by Paul Gillespie and republished in the Irish Times on January 4, 2021 advising the EU, “EU must come to terms with the end of Anglo-American hegemony”.
Beginning the decade positively
When Biden starts relenting on his pledge not to ramp down the trade war the Trump had ratcheted up to the present level, we know that at least he will not be ratcheting it up. With what we are hearing from Blinken the general view is that relations with China will be improving instead of aggravating.
The last quarter of 2020 said a lot about what our next decades will be, because what was seen in action was the final launching of the “multipolar world” after the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed and bannered for weeks in global media, and then followed by the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).
From the two regional trade agreements with China covering almost 50% of the World’s economy and population, we can see the visage of the World congealing into economic blocs linked through the Eurasian land mass and sea lanes linking with Africa too, while the US consolidates in North America across the Atlantic with Britain.
India will take some time to rediscover its place in Asia after its present dalliance with the US across several seas and ocean to the east and west, while Latin America finds its own consolidation as the independent state in the likes of Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba lead towards the fruition of the Bolivarian revolution.
US Back, but not at the head of the table
After the November 2, 2020 elections and on the way to achieving the majority of the electoral votes president elect Joe Biden was already speaking to the World saying the world leaders were “looking forward to the US reasserting its historic roles as a global leader over the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic, all across the world.”
Biden started to build his cabinet team saying, “ … it’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Once again, sit at the head of the table…” Politely the world kept quiet but went on to do its preparations, the EU signed the investment deal with China supported by all its member states.
Though Biden had in his post-election victory called in his enthusiasm the present times as the “American Century” the reality is that even the EU, the third major player on the global stage, has started to look to Asian – as even the US had known since 2011 hence it’s declaration of the “Asia Pivot” to try to stay ahead of the curve.
But Biden and the US will discover, as the realist among Americans like Aaron David Miller has written in the National Public Radio site in his December 2, 2020 piece, “With Biden, America Is Back – But Not At The Head Of The Table”. The World will have more like a round table, with peers sitting around deciding together.
The Philippines in the Multipolar World Order
The first two of the next four years the Biden administration will be preoccupied with fixing the domestic economy and political disorder, an immensely vast undertaking given the range of crises running from racial to financial and the Trumpian knot of 74,000,000 million voters many of whom will continue protests against the Biden government.
While the US is absorbed in its internal affairs Asia will be rising with the awesome feat of China’s project 8% plus economic growth in 2021 and sustained through the decade. Meanwhile, the ASEAN practically cemented its formidable good relations with China in the conclusion of the RCEP and ensuring the completion of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
The Philippines under President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s leadership has been pivotal in the success of all the ASEAN undertaking with China. Imagine if the Noynoy Aquino legacy of “Amboy” policies had taken over after 2016, none of the cooperative and extremely productive initiatives between Duterte and President Xi Jinping could have come to fruition.
Covid-19 added an extra burden to the Duterte plans of super-charging the Philippine economy thorough the Build, Build, Build projects, but the positive outlook for Asia means that those ambitions are merely delayed and the rebound is just around the corner at the of 2021 after the vaccines arrive in the country.
So, let’s wink as one and get focused on hard work to produce those infrastructures, agricultural and industrial products for our people and for export.
(Join: “Power Thinks” with Ka Mentong Laurel and guests: Every Wednesday 6pm Live on Global Talk News Radio (GTNR) on Facebook and Talk News TV on YouTube; and Every Sunday 8 to 10am on RP1 738 on your AM radio dial.) ###