English News


With India as partner, Biden gears up to take on China in the Indo-Pacific

US defence secretary designate Lloyd Austin says China is the Biden administration's biggest foreign policy challenge (Courtesy: Times of Israel)

The United States’ new administration led by Joe Biden has been quick off the blocks to announce its intent to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, and bond with India.

The budding new administration also signalled that there would be no let up in countering China on trade and human rights.

Gen (retired) Lloyd Austin, US president Joe Biden’s pick to head the Pentagon, has already voiced his concern over China’s “increasingly aggressive actions” across the Indo-Pacific.

The Biden administration would also deepen engagement within the Indo-Pacific Quad—a grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the US. “I would also seek to deepen and broaden our defence cooperation through the Quad security dialogue and other regional multilateral engagements,” Austin said.

Analysts say that Austin’s statement addresses apprehensions that the Biden administration may dilute its commitment to the Quad, widely seen as a dynamic platform to counter China’s expansionism in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

In his testimony to the Senate committee, Austin, further spelt out that engagement with Asia would be the prime focus of the Biden administration on the global stage. In tune with Austin’s remarks, Anthony Blinken, designate secretary of state was even more forthright in bonding with India to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. Speaking at the confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Blinken said that India would remain a pillar under the Indo-Pacific strategy first proposed by former President Barack Obama. He credited former President Donald Trump for carrying forward Obama’s legacy “including its concept of Indo-Pacific and to make sure we were working with India so that no country in the region including China could challenge its sovereignty and also working with it on concerns that we share about terrorism".

China was also likely to be in the cross-hairs of the Biden Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen made it plain that the Biden administration is prepared to use the “full array of tools” necessary to curb China’s economic malfeasance, including a major investment in the US economy.

“We need to take on China's abusive, unfair and illegal practices,” the former Federal Reserve Chairwoman said during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, calling China “our most important strategic competitor.” Responding to questions from the Committee, Yellen said China has been "undercutting American companies" with a series of policies, including illegal subsidies, dumping of products, theft of intellectual property and barriers to US goods.

Yellen further stressed that she would work “to oppose any and all attempts by foreign countries to artificially manipulate currency values to gain an advantage in trade".

The outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a parting blow at China labelling the Chinese Communist Party's treatment of Uighur Muslims a "genocide." “After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party, has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said.

Yellen appeared to approve of Pompeo's views and said that China is  "guilty of horrendous human rights abuses" in response to a question. She said the United States needed to make investments to enable it to compete with China, which she described as the most important strategic competitor to the United States.

In defining US strategy of dealing with China, President Joe Biden has spotlighted that reworking US alliances would be the template for countering China.  "As we compete with China and hold China’s government accountable for its abuses on trade, technology, human rights, and other fronts, our position will be much stronger when we build coalitions of like-minded partners and allies to make common cause with us in defence of our shared interests and values," Biden said last month.