How Can Biden Counter China While Allowing America To Bankroll the CCP? | Opinion

Not once, not twice, but at least three times, President Joe Biden has declared that America would defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion by China—only for his handlers to walk it back.

Does this reflect "strategic confusion," or is it of a piece with a broader China policy that is strategically incoherent on its face?

The seeming chasm between President Biden and the rest of his executive branch alone raises alarm bell-raising questions about who is actually in command, and what that will mean in a crisis. These issues transcend Taiwan and merit substantial scrutiny.

But America's commitment to the security of the free and democratic living rebuke to the Chinese Communist Party—that is, Taiwan—constitutes a huge issue in and of itself. If Joe Biden's words are to ultimately control—and it remains an open question if they will—he has made a massive commitment.

Consider that Biden has done so at a time when leaders in his party have said "we're at war" with the weaker-but-nuclear-armed-to-the-hilt Chinese junior partner, Russia, in Ukraine; at a time when we're spending tens of billions of dollars on that conflict; and at a time when Biden has spoken of a desire for regime change in Moscow.

Biden's handlers say our Taiwan policy has not changed, implying "strategic ambiguity"—concealing from Beijing, the when, where and how we might react should it make a move on Taipei—still reigns.

But China is already engaging in saber-rattling.

Are we ready for two wars? If so, as previously argued in Newsweek, shouldn't the administration be making the case to the American people as to why we are compelled to fight, how deep our commitment might run and why it is manifestly in the national interest to do so?

I write this as an ardent China hawk, because war is simply too important to engage in without our consent. For decades, our leaders have ignored us, at cost of blood, treasure and legitimacy—undermining our national interest.

Biden issued his Taiwan remarks while standing alongside his Japanese counterpart, on the eve of a meeting with the triumvirate of Australia, Japan and India that, alongside the U.S., forms the "Quad"—a partnership that should aim to counter China, but which the Biden administration has stressed does not actually do so.

And he made the remarks as the administration was announcing an Indo-Pacific economic framework with a dozen partners, Quad members included, just before Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a soft-on-China speech before a Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-sympathetic venue, in which he reiterated America's Taiwan policy had not changed.

Now, strengthening relations in China's near-abroad would be an important part of countering Chinese hegemony. But notably absent from the dozen-nation pact was none other than Taiwan itself. Curious, that.

There are myriad other indicators that President Biden is speaking loudly and carrying no stick.

As Joshua Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a United States Army officer, questions in a thought-provoking Substack post, how do we square an avowed American seriousness about defending Taiwan with a lack of commitment to dramatically growing our Navy and purging it of corrosive Woke-ism, or to reprioritizing our military budget and shifting assets accordingly, or to making all other necessary preparations for battle?

As Treviño notes, Biden has said he's reviewing and could repeal the Trump administration's China tariffs. How to square that with a policy to counter China?

Consider another pressing matter that calls into question the administration's practical seriousness in the face of its deathly serious rhetoric.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) controls the Thrift Savings Plan, "a retirement savings and investment plan for Federal employees and members of the uniformed services."

At year-end 2021, there were some 6.5 million participants who had a combined $830 billion invested in the plan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a ceremony to honour contributions to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics at the Great Hall of the People on April 8, 2022 in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The FRTIB plans to open a so-called "Mutual Fund Window" that could allow participants to invest up to 25% of their savings in one or more of approximately 5,000 funds.

Here's the problem: Within those portfolios may well be Chinese companies who produce products aimed at brutalizing the Chinese people and burying our own. As a group of concerned members of Congress, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), wrote in letters to the FRTIB, government employees and warfighters might inadvertently invest in companies "currently sanctioned by the U.S. government for human rights abuses or otherwise blacklisted for the threat they pose to U.S. national security," or implicated in CCP human rights abuses. We cannot be sure because, as the congressmen write, "the FRTIB has explicitly acknowledged...that 'monitoring approximately 5,000 mutual funds for any investments in Chinese entities would prove too costly for the plan.'"

Consequently, the lawmakers are calling on the board to postpone the "Mutual Fund Window" until it can account for these potential problems.

When the Trump administration faced a similar threat of the FRTIB shifting investment options to include one that would fund some of China's most notorious companies, it ordered the plan halted. Then, it called for a broader review of Chinese companies' exploitation of America's capital markets, later signing legislation threatening to delist en masse Chinese enterprises from American exchanges.

This is critical because Chinese companies exist to serve the CCP and its military, the People's Liberation Army, pursuant to China's strategy of civil-military fusion. Access to American capital markets is vital to those companies' operations.

Some 148 of more than 250 Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges are reportedly slated for delisting because they fail to provide financial audits to be inspected by the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, as other foreign companies do, thereby exposing investors and the markets more broadly to considerably greater risk.

China is said to be working to hammer out a deal with American authorities to avoid such a fate.

China's companies had been able to skirt these requirements—that is, have gotten preferential treatment—in part because of a toothless memorandum of understanding agreed to under the Obama administration, reportedly following China's lobbying of then-Vice President Joe Biden.

If the Biden administration is serious about dealing with China, with respect to both Taiwan and elsewhere, it should be moving heaven and earth to ensure not one penny goes from the federal government and its employees to Chinese entities.

It should be adamant that Chinese companies be delisted from U.S. exchanges, and on an accelerated timeline. Access to our capital markets has proven one of the greatest contributors to China's rise to become our most formidable geopolitical adversary.

Wannabe-emperor Xi Jinping may have myriad shortcomings, but he will seize upon the weakness of an American emperor who wears no clothes.

Ben Weingarten is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, fellow at the Claremont Institute and senior contributor to The Federalist. He is the author of American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive-Islamist Takeover of the Democratic Party (Bombardier, 2020). Ben is the founder and CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and production company. Subscribe to his newsletter at bit.ly/bhwnews, and follow him on Twitter: @bhweingarten.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.