When asked about the strategy of Washington's relations with Beijing during his recent full-scale press conference, US President Joe Biden has touched upon international world order. The American leader particularly said that along with other democracies, the United States will seek impleading authoritarian regimes such as China and Russia. "This is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies," Biden said.
The US president picked up his idea on March 26 during a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He pointed to the need for democratic countries to establish an equivalent union against the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and thus to adequately compete with the Beijing's scheme.
It should be noted that the idea of uniting all the "democracies of the world" against the "authoritarian" states represented by Russia and China is far from being new. Back in December last year, The National Interest magazine published an article with a recommendation to the newly elected US President to push back against China upon taking office. The outlet suggested that the 46th president of America give up on trying to change that country's regime, with its aggressive spread to be opposed by the united front of democratic states dissatisfied with Beijing's policy.
Joe Biden seems to have started implementing this plan right after his January 20 inauguration. Thus, speaking at the Munich Security Conference in February, he assured that America is "back" and ready to defend Europe from Russia. Biden did not overlook China in his speech either: "We must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China. Competition with China is going to be stiff; that’s what I expect, and that’s what I welcome. Because I believe in the global system, Europe and the United States together, with our allies in the Indo-Pacific worked so hard to build over the last 70 years," the American leader said. According to Biden, the entire West needs an immediate unanimity around its values so as not to let autocracies gain the upper hand.
This message of lining up against Russia and China was once again voiced by Joe Biden during his last week's speech at the EU summit. He reiterated his commitment to reinvigorating US-EU relations and urged Brussels to work closely together and ensure that democracies, not autocracies, make rules.
Through the lens of statements by President Biden and other high-ranking American officials, the United States seems to have decided to ultimately divide the world into two spheres of influence, with the United States itself on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. Assisted by a mighty bloc of allies, Washington should "encircle" the PRC. And Russia is considered by the White House as Tianxia's close partner.
As it appears from publicly available sources, many Western leaders were really enthusiastic about Washington's message and affirmed the urgency to unite, leaving one-time controversies behind and showing a united front against Moscow and Beijing. The March 12 meeting of QUAD leaders (the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising Australia, India, the United States and Japan) is meaningful in this regard. The four leaders discussed the necessary combined effort to protect democracy, combat the spread of Chinese influence, and build a common security zone. It is acknowledged that Washington intends to create a kind of QUAD-based "eastern NATO" to counter China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region (IPR).
There is little doubt that the United States has decided to play tough and literally grip China in its vice through the agency of its allies. However, this scheme hardly provides for mechanisms to be engaged by the United States to make the entire West break many advantageous economic ties and enter into a clearly unprofitable full-throated confrontation with China and Russia. So far, Washington has only academic discussions of democracy, promises of engaging in collective measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect the climate.
For instance, all is not right with Washington's desire to create an "eastern NATO", and it is not necessarily the case that its plans are doomed to success, since India, true to its non-aligned policy will unlikely join any military alliance against Beijing, even in case of confrontation with China.
By the way, Europe deems geopolitical goals in a completely different way as compared with Washington. Even under Donald Trump, Brussels was stoutly harping on the need of pursuing a more independent policy and distinguish between the concept of its own interests and geopolitical relations. And while agreeing with the United States on the necessity to contain Moscow and Beijing in military, political and technological terms, the EU countries are ready to advocate their economic interests as to Russia and China all the way through. Among the most dramatic examples is the Nord Stream 2 project, with its benefits to the European Union as a whole and its separate member states, primarily Germany.
In this regard, we should not expect any serious movements on the part of Europe in uniting with the USA in a single anti-autocratic bloc, since the former sees no serious threats from either Russia or China, with business interests being very strong. This does not mean that the EU countries have a strict independent policy contrary to the US plans; it is politics being replaced by business interests.
A striking example of this is economic cooperation between Europe and China. Suffice it to recall that ahead of Biden's inauguration, an investment agreement was signed between Brussels and Beijing. In real practice, the extent of China's economic penetration into Europe and the intensity of European-Chinese economic relations is such that Europe is simply unable to join America's confrontational policy towards the PRC. Incidentally, China became the European Union's key trade and economic partner in 2020, having outperformed the United States in this respect.