A Biden administration plan to work with allies to confront China is being put to the test as the U.S. tries to rally countries with sometimes different interests to pursue a coordinated strategy against Beijing. How to handle China has been a recurring topic in many of the dozens of calls President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials have made to counterparts during the administration’s first weeks in office, according to officials. The outreach includes showing support for countries with territorial and other conflicts with Beijing—such as Japan, India and Australia—while trying to enlist European nations, who now count China as a major trading partner.
The effort is reaping some early gains, including extending an agreement with Japan on the hosting of U.S. troops and closing in on a similar pact with South Korea. In appealing to work together, the Biden administration is also having to listen to partners’ concerns that go beyond China. In his call with Mr. Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the recent coup in Myanmar took up most of the 40-minute discussion. r. Motegi said he was reassured that Japanese investment in the Southeast Asian country won’t be hurt by U.S. sanctions against Myanmar’s generals.
India, whose troops clashed with Chinese soldiers along their border last year, discussed the country’s goals of become a manufacturing hub, as well as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, an Indian official said.
“They seem to want to work more with partner countries,” said Ashok Malik, policy adviser in India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Biden administration officials shaping China policy said that taking other countries’ interests into account is necessary to getting them on board. That especially matters, the officials said, after the Trump administration often quarreled with allies and went its own way, allowing Beijing to use the discord to expand its influence. “We are very mindful that some of our allies and partners have a range of different interests that align with ours and some places where they are somewhat different,” said one official.
In recent years, the official said, China has “sought to fill a vacuum with the U.S. absence” on the world stage, so renewed U.S. engagement “can help push back on some of the really fundamentally antidemocratic norms and values that China’s been seeking to inject throughout the international system.”
The Biden administration is planning for broad-ranging competition with China for global influence, carrying forward the Trump administration’s harder line while also looking for areas to cooperate, like on the pandemic and climate change. The hard-nosed approach toward Beijing is supported by many in Congress and, the administration officials said, requires leveraging relationships with other countries.
Early issues to work on with allies and other countries include securing next-generation 5G telecommunications networks and supply chains of critical goods, a senior official said. The U.S. appealed to Taiwan and other partners in February to deal with a current shortage in semiconductors hitting the auto industry.