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Yoichi Shimada

【#1025】Biden’s Basic Stance and Ability to Deliver Are Questionable

Yoichi Shimada / 2023.03.16 (Thu)

March 13, 2023

On March 10, Iran and Saudi Arabia announced in Beijing an agreement brokered by China to restore diplomatic relations. This development may symbolize the weakness of the U.S. administration led by President Joe Biden that has been compromising with leftist ideology, vacillating due to various political considerations and occasionally showing up contradiction between words and actions.

The Biden administration has taken a hostile view of the oil industry from its position of decarbonization fundamentalism and worsened relations with Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries. When discontent with gasoline price spikes grew in the United States, however, the administration changed its attitude and requested Saudi Arabia to increase oil production before the request was ignored only to further hurt its credibility.

The Biden administration tried in vain to come back to the Iran nuclear deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump, ending up earning the mistrust of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia’s temporary acceptance of China’s mediation may indicate Riyadh’s disappointment at and contempt for the administration.

Biden’s China policy filled with weakness

The Biden administration’s China policy is also filled with contradiction and weakness. While the White House regards climate change as the biggest national security threat and views cooperation with China as indispensable for tackling the threat, the Pentagon and the Republicans take a position that the Chinese Communist Party is the biggest threat. The latter may be right.

Under pressure from the defense establishment and the Congress, the Biden administration has set forth the enhancement of restrictions on strategic material and technology exports to China. But doubts exist whether they have been enforced strictly.

On February 28, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to receive testimony from Under Secretary of Commerce Alan Estevez who heads the Bureau of Industry and Security in charge of export control. Asked about export licensing policy regarding strategic materials for Huawei Technologies Co., the largest Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer, Estevez answered the policy was “under assessment,” angering Republican and other lawmakers.

The committee’s Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) expressed “deep concern,” saying that the current Huawei licensing policy denies few, if any, licenses even for items on the Commerce control list. On March 7, McCaul sent a letter to Estevez, asking six questions including (1) whether the administration has halted the issuance of new export licenses for Huawei, (2) when that assessment will conclude, and (3) if current licenses will be revoked under a new licensing policy.

Indictments have been withdrawn

The previous Trump administration indicted ethnic Chinese and other university professors for their alleged transfer of the latest strategic research products to China, but the Department of Justice under the Biden administration has withdrawn these indictments one after another.

Universities dominated by liberals usually defend teachers concerned, criticizing Trump’s racism for targeting Chinese scholars. They may be reluctant to be held responsible for hiring and managing such scholars.

Suspicions linger that the Biden administration depending on university teachers and students as core supporters might have gone along with university authorities to withdraw the indictments.

I expect that the House controlled by the opposition Republican Party known for its tougher attitude against China will promote efforts to ascertain facts and enhance law enforcement.

Yoichi Shimada is a senior fellow and Planning Committee member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor at Fukui Prefectural University.