Half Measures Won’t Do In The Competition With China

China poses the single greatest security challenge to the United States and our democratic allies, but President Joe Biden too often embraces half measures inadequate to the economic, diplomatic and military competition. All that plays too well into Beijing’s hand.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made clear that America objects to China’s mercantilist policies that weaken Western economies and stifle opportunities for our workers; to its gross human-rights abuses against Muslims in Xinjiang and democracy advocates in Hong Kong; and to the militarization of large swaths of the South China Sea and threatening actions toward Taiwan.

Biden seeks to gird the U.S. economy with industrial policies embedded in his infrastructure plan. However, the funds allocated to the semiconductor industry and manufacturing pale by comparison to the all-government support Beijing bestows on Huawei and other national champions in the solar, electric vehicle and other industries.

cargo ships docked at the pier during day

Image Source: Unsplash

Defenseless

As China and Russia muscle up, Biden offers the Pentagon a declining share of U.S. GDP that won’t keep up with inflation. And he bowed on defense to the hard left, who give priority to climate change and social justice ahead of national security, by passing over Michele Flournoy for defense secretary.

Flournoy has the clearest vision of the transformative changes in assets and strategies needed to address the risks posed by China in the Pacific, whereas Lloyd Austin has demonstrated little comparable understanding through his record, words or initial actions in office.

Biden seeks a coalition of democracies. However, for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan and other Trans-Pacific Partnership nations, disengaging and confronting China entails lost exports and jobs, and military vs. domestic spending trade-offs.

America can’t expect Japan, Germany and others to forgo market opportunities in China, while Biden acts so protectionist toward friend and foe alike. Our most potent option would be to offer our allies a Western free trade alliance by rejoining the TPP and quickly concluding trade agreements with the U.K. and European Union.

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Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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