Analysts said Joe Biden would take a more measured approach to Chinese technological threats. But he is unlikely to defeat Trump's measures
When he enters the White House in January, Biden is likely to stick to the Trump administration's tough policies toward Chinese tech giants like Huawei Technologies, bowing to anti-Chinese sentiment among U.S. legislators from both parties.
Analysts said Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate who last week defeated Republican President Donald Trump in a hard-fought race, would take a more measured approach to Chinese technological threats. But he is unlikely to defeat Trump's measures, even if he enlists allies to try to force China to adhere to international rules. "There would be a significant setback for Congress in the face of any retreat from measures that have already been taken," said Martin Chorzempa, a researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Donald Trump has imposed unilateral restrictions on a range of Chinese companies, from telecommunications equipment giant Huawei to Bytedance, which owns the popular social media application TikTok, chilling relations with Beijing and causing turmoil in the global marketplace.
Like much of Washington, Biden once hailed China's rise, but has since sharpened his tone, calling President Xi Jinping a thug and promising to take a tougher line than Trump on climate and human rights issues. But the president-elect refrained from getting his hands on Trump's technological warfare. He expressed concern about the data collected on Americans by TikTok, which Trump tried to ban and sell to a consortium of U.S. companies. The deal has stalled and the ban is blocked in court.
Joe Biden gave few details of his policy position on Huawei, but said he did not support Chinese companies building critical U.S. infrastructure, which could include 5G networks. He did not say whether he would keep Huawei on a commercial blacklist that would make it more difficult for it to access U.S. high-tech products such as semiconductor chips.
His decisions on these issues could be hampered by deep disagreements among his advisors, according to analysts and insiders. "It's a big gap," said a source with expertise in the political thinking of the Biden campaign. "There is an older crowd that sees itself as liberal and progressive and believes that free trade is responsible for greater prosperity for all. And there's also a crowd of Sanders-Warren ... who are more skeptical," the source added, referring to Liberal Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who had challenged Biden for the Democratic nomination.
Biden's team may also face lobbying efforts by the technology industry to loosen controls over China that have been detrimental to their operations. "The technology community is very supportive of Biden rather than Trump, so there's going to be tremendous pressure to ... relax some of the export controls, semiconductor sales to Huawei," said Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Heritage Institute.
Some observers of China expect less turmoil under Biden. Trump's approach is characterized by a multi-billion-dollar trade deal as well as sanctions over Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong and threats over Beijing's management of the coronavirus. "It's going to be easier, no matter what. Same direction, smoother trajectory," said James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, adding that policy goals are unlikely to change.