Much of the 2020 campaign featured bluster between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden about who would be tougher on China without a lot of specifics on exactly how.
Now with President-Elect Biden set to take office in January, his allies are warning of the very specific challenges he’ll face.
David Paterson, who served as New York’s governor from 2008 through the end of 2010, had a blunt message for the president-elect about the work ahead: “China really is a menace that we have to confront over the next couple of centuries,” he told Yahoo Finance, adding that the new administration will need to stop China in its goal of “world domination by 2049.”
China congratulated Biden for his victory on Friday, waiting nearly a week after the former vice president clinched enough states for the win.
"We understand the results of the U.S. election will be determined according to U.S. laws and procedures," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reportedly said at a regular daily briefing in a nod to Trump’s refusal so far to concede.
‘They are just a straight out danger’
“It's not about liberal and conservative, they are just a straight out danger,” Paterson said, pointing to specific things like the Trump administration’s move on Thursday to ban investments in firms controlled by the Chinese military.
Biden should “address it right away by not rescinding that executive order,” said Paterson. “That actually would change the dynamic” between the countries.
A former George W. Bush Administration official recently argued in the Washington Post that Biden may have no choice but to continue and extend some of Trump’s measures against China. The trade war “is entrenched on both sides now; it isn’t something they can wish away,” wrote Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary for policy in the Department of Homeland Security.
During the election campaign, Biden noted that he would be able to negotiate with China after having spent more time with Chinese leader Xi Jinping than any other world leader at the time.
So far, in the few days since being declared the winner, Biden hasn’t laid out his plans for how he would address China as president beyond a brief mention in his COVID plan about a push to “expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.”
Stephen Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, laid out his expectations during a Yahoo Finance appearance on Monday: “[T]hey're going to be tough on China as well, I would expect that the tariffs that we have in place aren't going to go away anytime soon,” he said. New tariffs are possible, but “we think a Biden administration would be probably more process-based, more predictable, and work with allies a lot more,” said Lamar.
Other Democrats, like Paterson, have signaled that they want their party to be known as the tougher party when it comes to China-U.S. relations.
“I actually would be tougher, and hope that Joe Biden would be tougher,” Rep.Tom Malinowski (D., N.J.) told Yahoo Finance in June.
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.