This week started with United States President Joe Biden’s declaration that his country’s “transatlantic alliance is back.”
Western media outlets called it a powerful speech that seeks to reestablish the United States as the leader of the West against what he called a global assault on democracy.
It also placed the US back as the leading global player after Donald Trump led his country to hibernation by keeping insular and staying away from global engagements.
In his most recent statement before he lost his bid for a second four-year term, Trump had limited his participation in the United Nations’ efforts to save the world from Covid-19 despite blaming China’s alleged role in the virus’ spread.
It was the mistake that followed more that came before. Biden rectified it by committing $4 billion to the Covax effort to send vaccines to poor and developing countries in the next two years.
It’s the soft approach by the US to send a signal to the world that it is back in the game, indeed.
Unlike Trump whose boastful and defensive speech before the UN General Assembly last September was called “disjointed” by the many who fact-checked his claim against China (which he criticized for various offenses — from inflicting a pandemic on the world to poisoning the global environment), Biden has made it clear that he will engage with the fastest-rising country since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
Europe has welcomed the US’ “reengagement,” embracing what it called is a return to “multilateralism” that is seen to somehow balance the contest between democracy and autocracy, saying that it is at an “inflection point.”
Biden’s audience, however, knew that his words were also directed to where the sun rises, China being the closest threat — economically and military — to the US.
Twenty-one days after his inauguration, Biden on 10 February dropped Chinese President Xi Jinping a call just ahead of China’s Lunar New Year.
It was not the normal phone call between friends, although they opened their conversation with well-wishes in the Year of the Ox — a Chinese observance felt around the world.
A White House readout said among those Biden had mentioned to Bien is the US’ intent to “(preserve) a free and open Indo-Pacific” — the tone harking back to Trump’s forceful underscoring of concerns about Beijing’s strong economic approach with its partner countries, and its handling of Hong Kong, Xinjian and Taiwan, which the US had recently militarily upgraded.
The substance of that call also echoed Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stand against China’s sweeping claims in the strategic waterway and islands claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Pompeo’s successor Anthony Blinken also added weight to Japan’s claim to an island that is also being owned by China. The US and Japan had formed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad with Australia and India. The Quad is equivalent to Asia’s NATO.
Biden lightened up with Xi on the issue of the pandemic, the shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation — possibilities (that) now point toward an improvement of China-US relations (underscoring, all Biden’s).
Xi was supposed to have said: “When China and the United States work together, they can accomplish a great deal for the good of both countries and the world at large; a confrontation between the two countries, however, will definitely be disastrous for both countries and the world.”
Who can counter that?