The differences between the Biden approach and this one reside mainly in the emphasis on economic reforms within the United States, a concession to domestic priorities. For the rest, these positions converge greatly, and could lay ground for a new bipartisan consensus. Analysts with a Democratic sensibility such as Julie Smith, Melanie Hart, Ely Ratner, who could certainly be part of a Biden administration, are very close to "traditional" Republican analysts like Aaron Friedberg or Evan Feigenbaum, who could have been part of a more traditional Republican administration. They all share a military tropism, a consensus on the importance of winning the technological war, and an emphasis on defense innovation.
4/ Quincy Mutineers (anti-militarists, "realists", and all "restrainers", including right-leaning libertarians)
They share some views with the first family and others with the second group:
- A Trumpian disdain for allies, whether Asian or European, who must take (complete) responsibility for their own defense. This position can go so far as suggesting to accept that Taiwan is in China’s sphere of influence ("realpolitik").
- The vision of a competition that is above all economic: domestic economic reconstruction is the priority (health, infrastructure, education).
- An emphasis on areas of cooperation with China, particularly climate change.
During the campaign, progressives led by Sanders and Warren emphasized the need to counter an "axis of authoritarianism and corruption" led by China (and Russia). This position is now being contested. The overriding concern in this group is that a bipolar confrontation between the U.S. and China will inflate the Pentagon’s budget yet again, and divert attention and resources from the necessary domestic priorities and reforms, while reviving the bipartisan interventionist consensus they reject. Peter Beinart and Stephen Wertheim both insist on rejecting the narrative of strategic competition and of a "new Cold War," which would otherwise lead the United States into a new arms race, renewed proxy wars, all against a backdrop of anti-Asian racism at home.
A second Trump administration would benefit from the convergence of European and American views on China, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. However, Transatlantic cooperation on China would remain complicated. Trump’s transactional approach would be reaffirmed, and there is no reason to imagine that Europeans would cease to be considered as commercial adversaries, as well as less strategically useful allies than Asian partners. A renewed transactional approach would question the Transatlantic alliance and NATO, again. Above all, President Trump would resume being the disruptive factor of American policy on China (and of U.S. foreign policy in general), an aspect that will only become more pronounced if he is re-elected. The campaign will be behind him and the debate between the different agencies and personal influences will resume. This last point will complicate Europeans' position if the administration demands an undisputed alignment on sensitive and/or complex issues that will remain subject to impulsive changes of mind from the American president.
A Biden victory is expected to lead to a "transatlantic reset," but its nature, and the reinvention of a 21st century transatlantic contract, will require efforts on both sides. A Democratic administration would have primarily domestic priorities, an aspect only reinforced in the dual Covid-19 and post-George Floyd context. On the international scene, it would see the urgency of relaunching multilateral cooperation, especially on the pandemic and on economic recovery. A democratic administration could consider with more serenity the development of European strategic autonomy to take more responsibility in Europe’s neighborhood. But trade matters (tariffs, regulations, investment screening), and digital issues (Big Tech taxation, AI, regulation of platforms), will remain major irritants, and could take center stage. Climate is probably the area where a Biden administration will see Europeans as the most natural partners. However, the willingness to cooperate with China will have to take into account the reality of Chinese policies and actions in this area.
In conclusion, the return of the United States to a more cooperative approach to international relations will at least allow for a more rational transatlantic conversation on China. But the pandemic will also definitely confirm the Asian pivot of U.S. foreign policy. Europeans should be prepared, and will have to find their place – and, above all, define their own strategy.
Copyright : WANG ZHAO / AFP