After taking office, US President Joe Biden immediately embarked on a trip to Europe, and wrote about it in an opinion piece titled “Joe Biden: My trip to Europe is about America rallying the world’s democracies.” The trip is highlighted by the G7 summit that was held in Cornwall, UK on June 11-13. During this period, President Biden met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Queen Elizabeth II of the UK. On June 14, President Biden participated in the US-EU summit and the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, during which he also met with the Russian allied President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan. On June 16, the US-Russia presidential summit was held in Geneva, Switzerland. During the news conference that took place after this summit, Biden stood side by side with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and allowed the American people to feel pride over the results of his first overseas trip.
Over the years, US presidents have enjoyed taking trips abroad, which have allowed them to not only shake off the intrusion of the media and the supervision of congress, but to also demonstrate their diplomacy skills. Based on the public opinion survey that was conducted by the Pew Research Center to see how sixteen countries perceived US Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden (America’s Image Abroad Rebounds With Transition From Trump to Biden), In a public opinion survey that was conducted on sixteen countries, more than 60% of people believed that world affairs are being handled properly by Biden. Comparing the twelve countries that were surveyed in both 2020 and 2021, it is evident that the median percentage of people in each country who expressed confidence in Biden was as high as 75%, while the median percentage of those who expressed confidence in Trump was only 17% in 2020.
Besides renewing the Atlantic Charter, which had not been revised in eighty years, to emphasize the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, Biden and Johnson made a joint statement, through which they declared: “We must ensure that democracies – starting with our own – can deliver on solving the critical challenges of our time;” “We will champion transparency, uphold the rule of law, and support civil society and independent media. We will also confront injustice and inequality and defend the inherent dignity and human rights of all individuals.”
Before the trip, Biden had announced that the US would purchase 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to share with the world, which was well received by both the Democratic and Republican parties. At the G7 summit, Biden discussed issues of global concern in the twenty-first century, such as climate change, cybercrimes, and conflicts between authoritarian and democratic countries. In addition, Biden worked hard at the G7 summit to finalize an agreement on a “global minimum corporate tax rate” of 15% to prevent low-tax countries from continuing their “race-to-the-bottom,” which saw them compete viciously in cutting tax rates. Furthermore, it was announced that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reserves would be increased by US$100 billion to support the needs of countries that are longing for economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden also proposed the “Build Back Better Plan,” which was originally an important policy in his campaign during the US election. This US$ 7 trillion plan is a future economic and infrastructure initiative that includes investments in infrastructure, and is projected to create 10 million clean-energy jobs. Alongside this, the plan also includes government funding in areas such as housing, education, economic equality, and health care. Biden hopes that democracies all over the world will be able to join the BBB and work together to make it an infrastructure partnership plan that is value-driven, high-standard, and transparent. In addition, while the US is willing to work with China to combat climate change, it condemns China’s immoral practice of reforming individuals through forced labor.
Unlike President Trump, whose actions could not be predicted based on his past conduct, Biden’s journey and gains in his first trip abroad not only demonstrated his influence as the US president, but also made people of the world exclaim that “America is Back.” Biden’s commitment to reintegrate the US back into the world has won the favor of leaders in each country. According to a public opinion survey that was conducted by the Pew Research Center, all the countries surveyed showed immense support for the US government’s decision to rejoin the World Health Organization (median of 89%), to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord (85%), to organize a summit for democracies (85%), and to accept refugees across borders (76%).
When Biden took over Trump as the US president, he still maintained a very tough attitude towards China, which surprised many Taiwanese communities that were friendly to Trump. However, to those who are familiar with the culture and history of US diplomacy, Biden appeared to have merely restored the usual practices of the US’ diplomatic traditions.
In 1918, President Wilson put forth a statement of principles known as the “Fourteen Points,” which strongly advocated for the concept of national self-determination. Most Americans have always believed that the US’ participation in international affairs were due to the following reasons: (1) the US democratic and free political system is the best in the world; (2) the US is the most powerful country in the world; and (3) the US is obliged to establish and maintain a world order, to allow people all over the world to enjoy the American way of freedom, democracy, and prosperity.
Despite sharing a close relationship with the UK, the US despises the UK’s calculating attitude, and disagrees with the famous remark made by its nineteenth century Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, which claimed that the British Empire has no eternal friends, but only eternal interests. Basically, the foreign policy of the US is based on the two values of “Altruism” and “Idealism.” For example, the US’ participation in the two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iran-Iraq War were not for its own benefit from the beginning, but for the promotion of a certain ideal or the protection of international order.
Although Wall Street tycoons, military industrial groups, and politicians have been the background manipulators who have encouraged the US to participate in foreign wars in the past, they have also been the biggest beneficiaries. However, the American people do not believe this to be the case. When the American people stand up to support their government in sending troops, it is usually for some sort of ideal. For example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt previously tried to persuade the American people to help China in Asia and the UK in Europe. In his appeals, which were based on morality and ideals rather than national interests, he called for the American people to support the weak and small nations of the world to resist the invasion of powerful nations.
However, US foreign policy has also emerged in the pursuit of balance between national interests and international influence. This can be seen in 1968, where Richard Nixon’s administration was embroiled in problems due to the Vietnam War. As a result of this, the American people began to doubt (1) whether the US was morally tenable, (2) whether the US was really strong enough to intervene in international affairs around the world, and (3) whether the international order that was previously imposed by the US was still in place.
President Nixon repeatedly used Henry Kissinger, the master of diplomatic actuaries, to begin his pursuit of national interests, to begin working alongside China in creating a balance against the Soviet Union, and to begin his pursuit of balance in international influence. However, around twenty years later, the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, which led the US to regain its self-confidence and to begin promoting American freedom, democracy, and human rights all over the world. Despite having authority that is similar to that of the Chinese Communist Party, the US has made cordial efforts to persuade China in hopes that it will be able to join the world’s system of trade, and to later develop into a democratic and free country like Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
The US sincerely hopes China to join the international system of order that is US-led. For example, when China joined the WTO in 2000, the relationship between the US and China was very close and friendly. However, after the rise of China’s economy, China started wielding the ability to threaten and disrupt the world order established by the US, despite continuously declaring that it was experiencing a “peaceful rise.” When the Americans finally lost their patience, they elected the unpredictable madman, that is Trump, to be their president. Trump did not talk about idealism or international order, and completely deviated from the diplomatic traditions of the US. Measures imposed from the sanctions on science and technology to the US-China trade war over tariffs have had an enormous impact on China’s foreign trade. Although the US returned to the usual practices of its traditional foreign policy when Trump stepped down as president and was succeeded by Biden, the relationship between the US and China had already deteriorated in all aspects and could no longer be restored.
At the end of his opinion piece, Biden raised two critical questions of our time: “Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world?” and “Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries?” In response to these questions, the idealistic Biden firmly stated that he believes the answer is yes, and that they have a chance.
However, from the viewpoint of the Chinese Communist Party or the Chinese people whose nationalism is currently on the rise, the actual conditions, results, and vision for the future are contrary to this. China has already abolished the unequal treaties that were imposed on them by the great powers, and the Chinese people have stood up. In addition, young Chinese people in the new era must take it upon themselves to bring about a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is believed that the vast majority of the Chinese people, or the younger generation of the Communist Youth League, may also be idealists who are willing to help the weak and achieve an ideal where the whole world is one community.
However, during the July 1 celebrations for the Centennial of the Chinese Communist Party, President and General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a speech in which he stated, “We’ll (China) never accept insufferably arrogant lecturing from those ‘master teachers!’ The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people will march forward on the path of our choice, and firmly seize the destiny of China’s development and progress in our own hands!” Through this speech, Xi Jinping essentially claimed that any foreigner who talk about Western democracy will be deemed as harborers of ulterior motives, and that any of those within China or the communist party who talk about democratization will also be perceived as anti-party conspirators. In the future of China, there is no doubt that the Xi Jinping Administration of the Chinese Communist Party will establish and uphold a socialist path of development with Chinese characteristics.
The Chinese have always felt that all of what the US is currently doing is resisting and containing China’s rise, and that their ultimate goal is to maintain the hegemony of the US, which encompasses systems, technologies, economics, military power, and the dominance of the US dollar. Xi Jinping also hinted: “The Chinese people have never bullied, oppressed or enslaved the people of any other country, not in the past, during the present, or in the future. At the same time, the Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us. Anyone who attempts to do so will end up with broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people!”
What exactly is the “Biden Doctrine”? Everyone wants to know, but what is certain is that President Biden will follow the principles of “Altruism” and “Idealism,” emphasize democracy and its values, and will be willing to share and cooperate with allies. In contrast to this, China has constantly appealed to nationalist sentiments within China, and has declared that it is a nation with “Xi Jinping at its core,” and is by no means a “dictatorship” that the West claims it to be. At present, both the US and China are coincidentally perusing an “idealistic” foreign policy that is emotive and proactive.
From Biden’s public talks during his trip to Europe, the competition between the US and China is only one part of the overarching competition between democracy and dictatorship in the twenty-first century. History has reached a turning point. When studying our era, future historians will assess whether the democratic values of Bidenism will prevail, or whether the values of the Chinese Communist Party “with Xi Jinping at its core” will win out.
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