The Biden administration is the last remnant of the Old Regime of America’s foreign policy. Its quixotic negotiations with Russia and, more importantly, accommodation with China seeks America’s return to the era before the Trump administration, where America’s strategic interests were ignored and subverted by Chinese influence and lucre.
The Old Regime aided China’s rise. Its damage to America’s interests and allies has been so significant and transparent that a new leadership—one which accurately perceives the China threat—is needed in America’s foreign policy community.
The Biden administration has considered reducing U.S. forces in NATO-member states in Central Europe as contingency options, in return for Russian pledges regarding their force levels not to invade the rest of Ukraine.
The details are ambiguous and no doubt the Biden administration is considering other contingency options such as changing or eliminating sanctions against Russia. In contrast, it is likely that Russia will not be held to actions that could not be easily reversed. Fundamentally, Russia is demanding new security guarantees that would alter Europe’s security architecture.
To even consider as an option tying Russian aggression to NATO is a disaster, as it threatens the security of NATO allies, particularly on the alliance’s eastern border. The narrative is also dangerous because it encourages hybrid warfare tactics, including the exploitation of the sizable Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia, as well as Lithuania. Russian intervention in Kazakhstan only increases concerns about Russia’s willingness to use force.
But Russia is a bellwether. It reveals that the Biden administration will entertain the sacrifice of the security of U.S. allies. As damaging to NATO and U.S. credibility as this is, it is not the sole or even greatest problem. China is, and the Chinese regime is the true beneficiary of the administration’s maladroit ruminations and actions.
What is happening with Russia and Ukraine presently cannot be divorced from the central strategic problem faced by the United States and its allies—the negative consequences of China’s rise. That threat compels undivided attention, perpetual alacrity, and indefatigable response. That threat requires that no discussion, options, or trial balloons regarding territorial compromise should be made by the United States in any circumstances.
The Biden administration’s actions in Europe impacts allies in the Indo-Pacific as well. Discussion of force or territorial concessions understandably heightens concern among key allies and friends, including the Indians, Japanese, and Taiwanese. It aids the Chinese regime’s global narrative of U.S. decline and perception among Chinese leadership that the United States is weak.
The restoration of the Bourbons was doomed to fail because the French Revolution made citizens of those who were formally peasants. The ancien régime was shattered beyond repair. The United States has an Old Regime as well. It seeks to return to accommodating China’s rise and managing U.S. decline. The American Old Regime is as maladaptive as the Bourbons for the times and the threats that the United States faces.
The American foreign policy community will not recognize or accept that the world of the Old Regime is gone. The Biden administration might resist the Chinese regime in its rhetoric but on a substantive level, its actions are tepid as precious time passes and so narrowing the window when the United States could act to stop China’s expansion and weaken the Chinese regime.
The Old Regime hopes to return to the period before the election of 2016, where access, and thus lucre, by Western businesses to the Chinese market was traded for the transfer of industries, wealth, and knowledge to the Chinese regime. Countless American CEOs, financiers, politicians, institutions, and academics profited from this sordid exchange. Through their actions, they exposed the American people, economy, and the national security of the United States to enormous costs and vulnerabilities. Through their actions, they undermined a prosperous, healthy, and sound future for the American people. Few said anything to stop this while the Chinese regime looted the intellectual capital and property of the West with the help of Western elites.
Beijing must be amazed that it got away with it for so long. Its strategy of threat deflation worked a treat for three decades, and still ensures that the American Old Regime does not perceive them as a threat.
There is no going back to the world before that defined international politics from 1989 until 2016. The new world brings greater security competition between the United States and its allies and the Chinese regime, and greater friction between China and its neighbors for three reasons.
First, like most rising great powers in history, more power and wealth correlates to greater coercive diplomacy, aggression, and demands. The Chinese regime has risen and is now a great power well on its way to becoming a superpower—and it is emboldened. Beijing wants change—right now. China causes alterations of the landscape of global politics every day. That is a recipe for trouble for its neighbors, U.S. interests, the liberal international order, and all of those who do not share its objectives or vision for the future.
The second is the nature of the Chinese regime. Under Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping’s rule, Beijing’s aggression will continue. Xi inherited from his predecessor, Hu Jintao, a wealthier, more powerful, and more assertive People’s Republic of China. But Xi has taken China’s aggression to new levels, to equaling or even going beyond Mao Zedong’s conception. Like Mao and Deng Xiaoping, Xi will remain in power until he dies, is incapacitated, or is overthrown.
Third, as the Old Regime will not address the threat from China, the absence of U.S. leadership will ensure that Beijing is able to advance its interests unchecked, which, in turn, further emboldens the regime. Important steps by Australia, India, and Japan individually and in concert are valuable—but the orchestra needs its U.S. conductor.
The American ancien régime is gone even if it does not know it. Americans now live in the world of its consequences. These circumstances will be more challenging for the United States, and compels the questions of how America could let this happen as China grew decade after decade, what must now be accomplished to stop it, and, as the Biden administration will not provide it, from where leadership to resist the Chinese regime will be found.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Bradley A. Thayer