Will US policy on India-China change under Biden?
Joe Biden's election as US President may not just be consequential for the people of the United States but for the world over as US foreign policy decides much of what shapes the world order.
President Donald Trump won the White House in 2016 and has been one of the most controversial Presidents of the US. Trump is known for his flamboyant statements on international politics, and for his tough attitude towards Iran, China and Taliban. His protectionist policy on trade led the US pull out from multiple trade agreements.
His hawkish and mercurial foreign policy was responsible for the US withdrawing from multi-lateral treaties across the globe – from the Iran Nuclear Deal to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Biden to a very large extent is looked upon as a sensible alternative to Trump and his, as I would call it, ‘diplomatic aggression' on the international political front.
Experts in the US have agreed that both Biden and Trump may be radically different in their approach, but their stance on China is more or less the same. Trump's or Biden's personality does not influence their policy towards China, it the nature of international politics that influences it. The US is a Liberal-Democratic, Capitalist State dealing with the rising power of China. American policy towards China, under the leadership of any person as a President, has to be aggressive.
During the Presidential Debate, Biden called Xi Jinping a “thug” in the context of China's oppression of the Uighur Muslims in China. Biden has been aggressive towards China even during his tenure as the Vice President. Aggression towards China is a strategic need and not personal anger issues! As opposed to Trump's all-out economic war, Biden's approach is to work with other countries in order to eliminate China's monopoly in the tech industry and set up rules. US concern on China's growing influence in the industry isn't a ‘personal' issue for Biden or Trump, but clearly a game of political economy.
Thus, while anticipating Biden's foreign policy towards China, it is important that the focus on the individual must be dealt as subservient to the geopolitical context. Understanding the improving US and India relations is important to understand America's policy towards China. The USA's policy towards India and its strategic ties primarily exist in order to counter China's influence in the pacific.
In that effort, the US finds India a reliable strategic partner. It is this reason why the US renamed the US Pacific Command to the Indo-US Pacific Command. This change in name was looked at by many Indians as an American gesture of honour towards India. It may just be an American strategy but it held significance as to show how much importance US strategic establishment have to India.
The Pacific and even the Indian Ocean has seen a rise in China's Naval control. China's Cabbage Strategy in the South China Sea and the String of Pearl strategy in the Indian Ocean threaten the security of India and the South-East Asian states. This makes India's role in the US naval strategy against China imperative.
No matter how much Trump says that he ‘loves Hindus', he has just been working on securing the interest of the US. In order to sustain the international political game, Biden will have to tread the same path. China is, politically and economically, a natural anti-thesis of the USA. Biden's personality may just change the American approach towards China, but it cannot change the ‘means' which is the American strategy towards China, and the ‘ends' which is to maintain American dominance in the international political order.