Joe Biden's pick for National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, has suggested that the United States should support China's economic rise as a means by which to improve economic relations between the two countries.
In a lecture for the Lowy Institute back in 2017, Sullivan said that the United States should view China as neither an enemy nor as a friend, but instead should carefully invest in China's future as a rising economic powerhouse.
"We need to strike a middle course—one that encourages China's rise in a manner consistent with an open, fair, rules-based, regional order," Sullivan said.
"This will require care and prudence and strategic foresight, and maybe even more basically it will require sustained attention. It may not have escaped your notice that these are not in ample supply in Washington right now."
This isn't the first time Sullivan has advised Biden. During the Obama Administration, Sullivan was the vice-president's national security advisor for the second term and served as deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state. Additionally, he was one of the first architects of the Iran Nuclear deal. Sullivan is no stranger to Asian foreign relations.
His nomination to National Security Advisor under the forthcoming Biden administration is telling—it could mean a new outlook on how to deal with China's aggressive and often antagonistic behavior.
Where the Trump administration has viewed China as the United States' largest rival and the nation's largest threat to national security, Biden has stated he doesn't see it that way.
In May of 2019, Biden said that China was "not competition" for the United States—a statement which gathered significant pushback from both sides of the isle. President Donald Trump called the stance naïve.
More recently, Biden asserted that Russia—not China—posed the largest threat to the United States. It's a stark contrast from a Trump presidency.
Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times that Trump's tough stance on China would limit what Biden is able to do. It's going to be difficult to change the tone of an international conversation that's been a heated argument for the better part of three years.
"There is no question that President Trump has adopted a tough stance on China, and this probably doesn't give President-elect Biden a lot of political flexibility early on, but we expect a significant departure in tone, style and process," Brilliant said. The beginning of that departure might start with Jack Sullivan.
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