Asian Insider

The Great Reset: Can US and China revive relations?

In a photo taken on Dec 4, 2013, then US Vice-President Joe Biden (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
In a photo taken on Dec 4, 2013, then US Vice-President Joe Biden (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beijing prepares to match Biden measure for measure, whether he chooses to talk or carry on with Trump-style confrontation. Tokyo waits to see if talk about alliances is for real. Pyongyang has fallen silent while Delhi wonders if Biden will raise a few uncomfortable questions. The Straits Times bureaus take the pulse in several Asian capitals as the Trump era retreats.


Joe Biden set to walk tightrope with China

Gone will be the "China virus" and "kung flu" slurs that US President Donald Trump deployed to wildly cheering crowds at his rallies; public rhetoric and megaphone diplomacy will be dialled back.

Conventional diplomatic dialogue will be put together again, in areas where the Joe Biden administration would like to work with China, notwithstanding deeper and wider strategic competition.

Arms sales to Taiwan will continue, but there will be no senior-level visits to unnecessarily provoke China, Mr Biden's advisers say.

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Beijing prepared to match Biden measure for measure


Then Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and then US counterpart Joe Biden holding an expanded bilateral meeting in the Roosevelt Room in the White House on Feb 14, 2012. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

When Mr Xi Jinping visited Washington as China's vice-president on Valentine's Day in 2012, there was no brewing bromance.

His counterpart from the United States then, Mr Joe Biden, feted him at a welcoming banquet, but pressed him on human rights. It was tantamount to a diplomatic slap, as Beijing prefers talking about the issue behind closed doors.

Without singling out any country, a composed Mr Xi retorted at the banquet: "There is no best human rights in the world, only better human rights."

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Japan is concerned US may be more conciliatory towards China


There is hope that even as Mr Biden moves to mend ties with Beijing, he will put more faith in the US' alliance with Tokyo. PHOTO: REUTERS

The prospect of Mr Joe Biden in the White House has eased Japan's worries over their security alliance but there are ripples of trepidation that the United States may become more conciliatory towards China.

Tokyo suffered fours years of apprehension as President Donald Trump took a transactional view of their defence treaty, and his impending departure has stirred expectations of a likely return of the US to multilateral institutions and greater respect being shown to bilateral alliances.

But there is a silent minority which sees Mr Trump as better for the region, given his hardline posture towards China. This conservative section thinks the engagement policy pursued by former US president Barack Obama, under whom Mr Biden served as vice-president, was a disaster.

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India uneasy over whether new US leadership will raise thorny issues



Prime Minister Narendra Modi may prove adept at cultivating US President-elect Joe Biden. PHOTO: REUTERS

A sense of quiet confidence pervades New Delhi, that ties with Washington will retain the heft acquired under United States President Donald Trump, but uncertainty lurks over whether the Biden presidency will raise some uncomfortable questions.

Against the backdrop of perception that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was far too cosy with Mr Trump, India has this week been recalling President-elect Joe Biden's long-time support for closer ties with Delhi.

In a phone call with Mr Biden on Tuesday, Mr Modi "warmly recalled" his earlier interactions with the President-elect during his visits to the US in 2014 and 2016.

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Pyongyang stays mum, while Seoul is set to play bigger role as middleman


Experts said Pyongyang's reaction could be a signal of its solidarity with President Donald Trump, whom North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met three times. PHOTO: AFP

The silence is deafening in Pyongyang after Mr Joe Biden's victory in the United States presidential election.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, as political watchers are already speculating about a shift in US policy towards North Korea - towards tighter sanctions and less personal diplomacy.

Experts say Pyongyang's reaction could be a signal of its solidarity with President Donald Trump, whom North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met three times since 2018, or perhaps indicates the regime's preoccupation with the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Biden must listen to Asia, avoid dividing region: Singapore's former US ambassadors



(From left) Veteran diplomat and former Singapore ambassadors to the United States Tommy Koh and Chan Heng Chee, and The Straits Times Associate Editor Vikram Khanna on Nov 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: BEMJAMIN SEETOR

It's a very different Asia that US President-elect Joe Biden will face when he assumes office, and the incoming leader of the world superpower must be prepared to consult the region on its perspectives and listen to its views.

This was the message that veteran diplomat and former Singapore ambassador to the United States Chan Heng Chee had for Mr Biden and his administration, which she shared at The Straits Times' inaugural Geopolitical Reset 2021 webinar on Thursday (Nov 19). Panellists on the forum included Prof Chan's fellow veteran diplomat Tommy Koh, also a former Singapore ambassador to the US.

The two diplomatic heavyweights - both ambassadors-at-large with Singapore's foreign ministry but speaking in their personal capacity - discussed how the US under Mr Biden is likely to manage its relationships in Asia in areas including trade, technology and political ideologies. They were joined by ST's US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh and Beijing-based global affairs correspondent Benjamin Kang Lim, as well as moderator, associate editor Vikram Khanna.

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What Biden means for Asia: Excerpts from ST's webinar with Tommy Koh, Chan Heng Chee


(From left) Professor Tommy Koh and Ambassador-at-Large Prof Chan Heng Chee at the inaugural ST Reset 2021 webinar on Nov 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: BEMJAMIN SEETOR

Ties between the United States and Asia are set to improve under US President-elect Joe Biden, ushering in a period of greater predictability and stability for the region, according to Singapore's veteran diplomats Tommy Koh and Chan Heng Chee.

They were speaking at ST's webinar, Geopolitical Reset 2021, part of a series that aims to help readers make sense of what might lie ahead.

The Straits Times' United States bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh and Beijing-based global affairs correspondent Benjamin Kang Lim were part of the panel as well, with associate editor Vikram Khanna moderating the session.

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