“I can assure you that this President is not looking to the last presidency as the model for his foreign policy moving forward,” said White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki during a press conference earlier this week.
Her words have taken on relevance because President Joe Biden, in a rather confusing statement to CNN, admitted that he will not condemn the Chinese regime for the genocide against the Uyghurs, and its outrages against Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The President’s statements started off a bit confusing, with an idea that does not quite add up. “Chinese leaders, if you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been – the time when China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home,” he said, “vastly overstated.”
But after that confusing moment, President Biden blurts out a couple of sentences that have been interpreted in two different but essentially similar ways: the President will not condemn the Chinese regime for perpetrating genocide against the Uyghur ethnic minority and its outrages against Taiwan and Hong Kong or, failing that, he is going to criticize them, but he will take forceful action on the matter.
“The central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightening control in China, and he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that,” he explained.
“I point out to him, no American President can be sustained as a President if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States, and so the idea that I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uyghurs in the Western mountains of China, and Taiwan, trying to end the One China Policy by making it forceful, I say – and by the he says – he gets it.”
After referring to the Uyghur genocide and commenting on the situations in Hong Kong and Taiwan, President Biden said, in a tone that seemed to justify the outrages, “culturally, there are different norms in each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”
A new approach to China?
It is not yet known whether the White House will issue any clarification of President Biden’s remarks because, it has been said, they were substantially confusing and many parts are subject to interpretation.
But one thing is certain: the narrative has changed dramatically.
Biden’s interview with CNN differs entirely from what his campaign said months before the November election, when the Biden campaign called the regime’s vilifications of the Uyghurs “genocide.”
“The enormous oppression that the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide, and Joe Biden opposes it in the strongest possible way,” Democratic Presidential campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
Bates added: “If the Trump Administration decides to call this what it is, as Joe Biden has already done, the pertinent question is what action Donald Trump will take on this. He should also apologize for condoning the horrific treatment of the Uyghurs.”
Those statements were in August 2020 in the middle of the election race. Donald Trump’s Administration took a rather hostile and ironclad path to condemning the Uyghur genocide, listing and sanctioning Chinese Communist Party officials and companies that contributed to it.
In fact, on the last day of presidency, the Trump Administration determined that the Chinese government has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in its crackdown on the Uyghur Muslim ethnic group in the Xinjiang region.
With the change in the U.S. government, there are still many doubts about how Joe Biden will finally carry out his foreign policy, which was one of the strengths of the Trump Administration in achieving several peace agreements in the Middle East and the Balkans, and elaborating mechanisms to pressure totalitarian states such as Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and China; as well as the Iranian theocracy.