Tags: Analysis: Biden China Trip Avoids Controversy

Analysis: Biden China Trip Avoids Controversy

Monday, 22 Aug 2011 05:39 PM


In wrapping up a four-day trip to China, Vice President Joseph Biden stressed that Chinese assets and investments in the United States were safe and that both countries had a vested interest in a sound U.S. economy.

Vice President Biden's trip to China was initially considered a 'meet and greet' with China's Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to be China's next top leader after Hu Jintao retires, presumably in 2013. Economic problems in the United States, however, dominated the agenda. Biden repeatedly stressed throughout his visit that Chinese investments were safe. In response to a question by a student at Sichuan University, Biden stressed “Please understand that no one cares more about this than we do, since Americans own 87 percent of all our financial assets and 69 percent of all our Treasury bonds, while China owns 1 percent of our financial assets and 8 percent of our Treasury bills, respectively.”

Despite differences with China, Biden stressed that "stability" was a hallmark of the U.S. relationship with China. In commenting on Vice President Xi Jinping, Biden remarked that he seemed "pragmatic" and that his "highest priority is not have any surprises."

Biden touched briefly on human rights concerns in public remarks but spoke only in vague terms about how "in the long run, greater openness is a source of stability and a sign of strength.” It is not clear if he raised specific human rights issues with Chinese leaders in private conversations.

Biden repeatedly stressed that the United States is not opposed to a rising China and that a "rising China will fuel economic growth and prosperity and it will bring to the fore a new partner with whom we can meet global challenges together."

Analysis

In all of his public remarks, Biden defended the U.S. handling of the debt-ceiling issue, but made clear that both China and the United States were essentially bound to each other.

What is most notable about Biden's trip to China is what was not said. Very few controversial issues were raised in what was widely regarded as a goodwill tour. The United States has been pushing China to liberalize its currency, the yuan, in order to reduce the bilateral U.S. trade deficit with China. In light of Chinese concerns over the U.S. handling of the debt crisis, however, Biden chose not to raise these concerns, at least in public. Instead, his goal was to make clear to China that diversifying away from the United States with regard China's purchase of U.S. government debt instruments was not needed.

The other significant development out of Biden's trip to China is that there is no clear indication about the specific package of arms sales that the United States will deliver to Taiwan. While there is no doubt Chinese officials raised the issue with Biden in private, there was a clear understanding that Biden would not discuss the issue in public. The United States is currently considering what type of F-16 jet fighter package to sell to Taiwan. Many are pushing the advanced F-16 C/D version to be sold to Taiwan in order to bolster their defenses against China as well as create jobs here in the United States.

Mark A. Groombridge is Deputy Editor of LIGNET.com, a new Washington-based global intelligence and forecasting site.


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Analysis: Biden China Trip Avoids Controversy
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