When it comes to economic sanctions, the Biden administration seems to be mirroring some of the strategies that proved effective in the Trump era.
In the face of mounting military pressure from China in relation to Taiwan, increased discourse around the detention of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province and the subtle incursions China has made on Hong Kong’s democracy, it appears that President Joe Biden’s China policy is being put to the test from every angle.
Biden has openly said that he would “reengage” with the rest of the world, as opposed to his predecessor, former President Donald Trump whose “America First” policy saw the United States take a different path when it came to international relations.
But when it comes to economic sanctions, the Biden administration seems to be mirroring some of the strategies that proved effective in the Trump era.
Late last month, 20 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwanese airspace. According to the island’s defense ministry, Taiwan’s air force deployed missiles to monitor the incursion and warned the Chinese planes via radio.
Days later, Taiwan announced that it would be buying an upgraded version of Lockheed Martin Corp’s Patriot surface-to-air missiles in a clear effort to protect itself against the increased threat from China.
Just a week following that announcement, the US Navy sent an Arleigh Burke-class warship through the Taiwan Strait, a seemingly unofficial reinforcement of the US’ commitment to protect the island.
An unofficial delegation of former American diplomats, including former Senator Chris Dodd and former Deputy Secretaries of State James Steinberg and Richard Armitage, were also sent to Taiwan at President Biden’s request. The delegation was described by a White House official as a “personal signal” of Biden’s commitment to the island’s safety and democracy.
In response, China has warned that it will not rule out military action as an avenue for keeping Taiwan from “the interference of external forces.”
Support for Taiwan has grown in Washington, including military support in the event of an invasion, something military officials say could happen in the next six years.
Biden hasn’t indicated yet whether he’s on board with such provisions and has instead opted to support the island-nation politically. In some instances, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has even asked foreign leaders to maintain formal ties with Taiwan, despite growing pressure from Beijing.
Critics say the policy is not yet effective enough to protect Taiwan, while others say that military support would back Beijing into a corner and increase the chances that it may invade.
The Xinjiang region of China has been a source of controversy due to China’s alleged detention of Uighur Muslims in “re-education” camps and use of the religious minority as forced labor.
Last month, the US acted in coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada to impose a coordinated set of sanctions against several Chinese officials involved in reported human rights abuses in the region.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called the camps “the largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since the second world war,” adding that evidence for the suppression of minorities within the province is “clear as it is sobering.”
Clothing brands in the west, including Nike and H&M, have also taken a stand against the alleged use of Uighur labor to produce cotton in Xinjiang.
This move resulted in a massive backlash in China, with dozens of Chinese celebrities cutting ties with the companies and Chinese citizens calling for the companies to be boycotted.
But the decision was supported by Secretary Blinken who stated that “We need to be looking at products that are made in that part of China to make sure they’re not coming here.”
Last month, the Biden administration put sanctions on 24 officials in China and Hong Kong in response to the crackdown on political freedom in the latter.
The sanctions were announced during a trip by Secretary Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea and just before a trip that Blinken made to Alaska to meet with Chinese officials.
In a notice sent to Congress on March 31, Secretary Blinken stated that China had continued to “dismantle” Hong Kong’s autonomy and that the city no longer warranted the special privileges the US had awarded it.
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