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Biden’s Asia Czar says ‘era of China engagement’ over, now time for ‘intense competition’

China's President Xi Jinping. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
May 27, 2021

Kurt Campbell, President Joe Biden’s top official on Asian foreign policy, said on Wednesday that the period of U.S. engagement with China has come to an end and the period of intense competition with China has begun.

Speaking at a Stanford University hosted event reported by Bloomberg, Campbell said, “The period that was broadly described as engagement has come to an end” adding that U.S.-China policy will now operate under a “new set of parameters” and “the dominant paradigm is going to be competition.”

Campbell, the U.S. coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the National Security Council, said the shift in U.S.-China policy is due in large part to Chinese policies under leader Xi Jinping.

Campbell pointed to recent behavior, including acts such as the Chinese military clash with Indian troops along their border, an “economic campaign” against Australian goods, and an overall “wolf warrior” diplomacy — a term used to describe strong support of Chinese nationalism and criticism of other countries. He added that this behavior suggests “hard diplomacy” and “signals that China is determined to play a more assertive role” on the world stage.

Under the Biden administration and President Donald Trump, the U.S. has increasingly conflicted with China on matters of trade, cybersecurity, human rights concerns and Chinese activity in the Pacific.

China has increased its military presence in the contested South China Sea and has taken actions suggesting it may eventually seek to invade Taiwan. China has flown near-daily military flights over Taiwan, and even appeared to fly practice attack runs aimed at a U.S. Navy carrier group operating in the area last month.

Concerning trade, cybersecurity technology and infrastructure, the U.S. has also raised concerns about Chinese involvement in U.S. infrastructure projects. Recently, Texas lawmakers raised concerns about a Chinese-owned company building a wind farm in Texas, not far from a U.S. Air Force base used for training. The farm has stirred concerns that turbines could interfere with flight training in the area, and that the Chinese-owned farm could cut power going to the military base if it were connected to the local energy grid.

Last week former Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach also shared concerns about U.S. investment in the Chinese technology companies Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, which he said serve as vital tools to the Chinese military and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) surveillance apparatus.

President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble” efforts to determine the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak, amid raised concerns that the virus originated from a virology laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases were reported.

Biden said Wednesday, “I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.”