Biden wants China to play by the rules, but Xi wants to make the rules

Reality can't keep Biden's promises

I didn’t watch President Biden’s big speech. I read the speech, the typical recaps, fact checks, and commentary. As expected, Biden’s speech made lots of promises that reality is not gracious enough to keep for him.

Progressive liberal dreams of an engineered, equitable, outcome-distributed society, with opportunity for all, but only to the degree that the least privileged among us can succeed—hearken back to the French Revolution’s tripartite cry of “liberté, égalité, fraternité”—expose the hypocrisy of the American left’s thought. We want to be a special nation, one worthy of earning its place as the world’s favorite destination and cultural exporter; we want to be strong enough to back up our moral claim as the world’s benefactor; we want to exude independence, intelligence and charity. At the same time, the progressive reaction to this is humble-bragging and self-guilt.

Biden has maintained President Trump’s protective tariffs against China, but wants to open the door for engagement and “welcome the competition” with them.

That means making sure every nation plays by the same rules in the global economy, including China. 

In one sentence, Biden has framed the debate and the struggle we have before us. China wants to make the rules, and have us play by them.

I also told President Xi that we will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo—Pacific just as we do with NATO in Europe – not to start conflict – but to prevent conflict.  

As long as the U.S. Navy remains a three-ocean fleet capable of taking on the whole world, we can defend our interests. But in China’s littoral waters, where Taiwan and Hong Kong reside, our ability to stop China from having its way is waning, and may even be a thing of the past. (Though there is far from consensus on this.)

Reality shows that China is building at a rate, compared with the rest of the world, that looks like post-WWII U.S. competing with a ravaged world in the 1950s. For example, in the last 10 years, China’s cement production exceeds the entire rest of the world, combined.

China has built infrastructure on a massive scale, both within its own borders, and around the globe in third-world nations. What the U.S. used to be known for, elevating poor nations, is now increasingly attributed to China.

[AidData researcher Bradley] Parks says that according to his team's research, there is a strong correlation between Chinese projects and economic growth in the countries where they're built. He also says that Chinese-financed "connective infrastructure" — things that connect people from one place to another, such as roads, bridges, railways and ports — are distributing economic growth into rural areasmore evenly than traditional Western development programs have. That's because China favors projects that connect people and businesses from rural, remote interior areas to bigger coastal cities, where there are more economic opportunities.

America’s economic strength is buttressed by the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. But China is making inroads, with the introduction of the Digital Yuan. It’s Xi’s plan to have China’s Yuan replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s global currency.

Chinese leaders are beginning to make it easier to trade the yuan in foreign exchange markets. To do this risks more open financial and political systems. On March 23, 2015, China backed the Renminbi Trading Hub for the Americas. The renminbi is another name for the yuan. That makes it easier for North American companies to conduct yuan transactions in Canadian banks. China opened up similar trading hubs in Singapore and London.

As digital and cryptocurrency gain acceptance, China wants to be the leader, displacing Bitcoin and other private cryptocurrencies.

China has picked its battles, and has carefully weighed where it will side with and against U.S. interests. For example, China inked a $400 billion deal with Iran, to the chagrin of the U.S., which is trying to resurrect some form of Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, America stews in a pot of political factions, tribalism, and news-as-entertainment. Our immigration policies have produced a massive crisis on our southern border, trapping hundreds of thousands of refugees in border cities. Biden asked in his speech:

Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us – created equal in the image of God – have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?  

Can our democracy deliver on the most pressing needs of our people? 

Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart? 

Then he answered:

America’s adversaries – the autocrats of the world – are betting it can’t. 

They believe we are too full of anger and division and rage. 

They look at the images of the mob that assaulted this Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. 

They are wrong. And we have to prove them wrong. 

We have to prove democracy still works. 

That our government still works – and can deliver for the people.  

So far, our government is not working that great, and seems to be good at only delivering bread and circuses (and the IRS is now quite good at distributing money versus collecting it).

I think the autocrats in Beijing, Moscow and other rivals don’t look at the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof of our demise. They look at it and chuckle. They’ve got us distracted, which was their plan. They also know America is very dangerous when we’re not distracted.

If Biden wants to prove that “democracy works,” he needs to start by recognizing reality. And then he needs to recognize that 70 million Americans need him to be their president, and acknowledge their political, social, and economic needs. So far, he’s playing to just one side. As long as Biden keeps making those one-sided promises, reality won’t deliver on them.

China is counting on that.

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