The Corner

Economy & Business

Joe Biden Is Convinced a Pro-China-Trade Stance Is a Winner

Joe Biden speaks during the kickoff rally of his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidental nomination in Philadelphia, Pa., May 18, 2019. (Mark Makela/Reuters)

“Trump’s erratic and impulsive approach to China is causing families economic pain,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, told Politico. “Joe Biden would rally our friends and allies to hold China accountable.”

Joe Biden’s position on China as described by his campaign sounds a little different than the way he’s expressed it in the past month. Biden’s full quote from his May 1 remarks in Iowa:

China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east, I mean in the west. They can’t figure out how they are going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

It would be easier to dismiss that as a sloppy off-the-cuff comment if he hadn’t said again in New Hampshire, May 13:

“What are we doing? We’re walking around with our heads down, ‘Woe is me.’ No other nation can catch us, including China. I got criticized for saying that. I’ve spent as much time with [Chinese President] Xi Jinping as any world leader has.”

Politico writes, “His nuanced message also has made it easy for critics to take liberties with his words.” But Biden hasn’t said much about uniting the world, or what actions he wants to hold China accountable for. He’s just making off-the-cuff remarks that suggest that anyone having any worries about a rising China is laughably paranoid and pessimistic.

Meanwhile, the Intercept laid out an issue that is certain to be brought up in discussions of Biden’s stance on China:

Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China. Bohai Harvest has put money into an automotive firm, mining companies, and technology ventures, such as Didi Chuxing Technology, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in the world after Uber. (Hunter Biden, Bohai Harvest, and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)

In 2017, Bohai Harvest bought into Face++, part of a $460 million haul in the company’s Series C investment round. Bohai Harvest’s website features Face++ in its portfolio of investments.

A phone application made and used by the Chinese government for surveillance of citizens is built heavily on facial recognition software supplied by Face++. In other words, Hunter Biden’s firm invested in the company that helped build surveillance technology used by the Chinese authorities, with their Orwellian methods and abominable record on human rights. Perhaps the firm knew how the technology would be used, perhaps not; apparently they’re not answering questions from the Intercept.

Some Trump fans will seize on this and argue that Hunter Biden’s business dealings are evidence that Joe Biden has been bought off by China, an allegation that goes well beyond what is proven. Biden may just be consistently expressing his decades-long belief that China is a trustworthy trading partner.

Biden has always supported expanded trade with China. In 2000, he voted to approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. In a presidential debate in 2007, when asked, “Would you call for tariffs to protect American consumers from unsafe products from China? Are you willing to go there?” Biden answered, “I’m not. No, I’m not willing to go there. You don’t need to start a tariff war. All you have to do is enforce the law. Enforce the law.”

In a 2012 speech alongside then-Vice President Xi Jinping, he declared, “I believe that a rising China is a positive development — not only for China but also for the United States and the world. It will fuel economic growth and prosperity, and a rising China will bring to the fore a new partner with whom we can have help meeting the global challenges we all face.” In that same speech, Biden declared, “China has responded to our concerns about procurement policies and established a high-level body to strengthen enforcement of intellectual property rights as well.”

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