Trump-era policy towards China

Joe Biden’s administration seems to follow in his predecessor Donald Trump’s footsteps when it comes to Washington’s China policy.

Joe Biden assumed the US Presidency on January 20, 2021, offering a chance to change the course of US-China relations that were deteriorated during his predecessor Donald Trump. But in Biden’s first months so far no significant change has been seen in Washington’s China policy and even in some cases, one can say that the new US administration has adopted a tougher approach towards Beijing.

In the wake of US President Joe Biden’s inauguration, China was hoping for better relations with Washington. In a tweet back in January, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, ”‘A new day for #US’, as said by American media. We wish the same for #China_US relations.”

“The two peoples have suffered & hope to see ties return to the right track at an early date,” she added, according to a report by CNBC.

But now more than three months after Biden came into the White House, it seems that the spokeswoman’s optimism was quite pre-mature.

Trade war

Despite holding several rounds of talks between Chinese and American officials to discuss Trump-era tariffs on goods coming from China since Biden took office in January, there have been no major changes in that regard.

In an interview on March 28, the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai signaled openness to trade negotiations with China but she said “yanking off” the three-year-old tariffs on Chinese products instituted by the Trump administration could unwittingly harm the US economy.

While the American companies and workers are still suffering from the Trump-era duties on Chinese goods, the new US administration seems to be not ready to lift them.

China hawks and US negotiators in Biden’s administration say the tariffs should be maintained as leverage to force Beijing to eliminate its unfair trade practices.

In fact, taking a hard line on China enjoys bipartisan support. Both Democrats and Republicans are seeking to contain China’s emerging influence in the trade world.

A report by CNN said on March 25 that the US still has tariffs on 66% of Chinese exports.

Peterson Institute for International Economics was cited by CNN that there is currently a tariff on the majority of the goods being shipped from China into the United States. The average rate is 19% — six times higher than before the trade war began in 2018.

According to the report American importers pay those duties. The tariffs on Chinese-made goods have cost American importers more than $82 billion so far, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Anti-China sanctions

The United States joined Canada and the United Kingdom along with the European Union to take what they described as “coordinated action” against China over alleged human rights violations and abuses by the Chinese government in Xinjiang on March 23.

The Democrats have historically claimed they watch over human rights state in other countries more than the Republicans do. The Democrat-led administration has adopted a tougher stance against Beijing when it comes to human rights.


President Joe Biden inherited a situation in Indo-Pacific region that is undergoing profound change with China’s rise.

While many Taiwanese favored Trump because of his administration’s hard-line stance against China and support for Taiwan, but the Taiwanese have been pleasantly surprised as the new Democratic-led White House is keeping the Trump-era tough policy on China in place.

According to a report by NBC News, under Biden, the US has said its support of Taiwan is “rock-solid.”

The White House under Biden even invited Taiwan’s representative in the US to attend his inauguration for the first time in history since Washington broke off official relations with Taiwan in favor of Beijing in 1979.


Biden has focused his foreign policy on tightening ties with allies while making new friends and allies. But the previous US administration was unsuccessful in forming a united front against China as he only sought to personalize his foreign relations with the leaders of some countries.

When President Joe Biden met with the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga earlier this year on April 26, he sought to present a united front with Japan to counter an increasingly assertive China, according to a Reuters report.

Like many of America’s allies and partners, Japan suffered four years of uncertainty under the erratic foreign policy of Donald Trump, but the Biden administration has given Japan more confidence in dealing with China.

As a Japan-US relations expert said in an op-ed on Asialink, in the turmoil of the Trump years, US-Japan relations were strained over everything from the cost of maintaining US forces in Japan to North Korea and China. He argued that Japan is now more confident in the value of its core security alliance with the US in the face of the rising challenge of China.

North Korea

With regard to North Korea, the previous US president sought to build a personal relationship with the North Korean leader in a bid to put an end to the Chine’s influence over the country, which Beijing traditionally uses as leverage in relations with the US, although Trump’s attempts ended in a total failure.

However, Joe Biden’s administration has not shown a return to the traditional US approach towards Pyongyang, where cooperation with Beijing plays a key role. Biden’s policy towards North Korea has yet to shape.

All in all, one can say that the Trump-era tough foreign policy towards China not only has remained in place, but also it has become tougher under the new US president Joe Biden. The US under Biden has kept most confrontational measures, such as economic barriers and human rights criticisms, intact and the Washington-Beijing relationship is still at its lowest point in history.