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The First Three Weeks of the Biden Administration in Office
 Source:Centre for Strategic Thinking  Views:1006 Updated:2021-02-09

With president Biden taking office, the U.S. administration set a first 10-day plan as well as a first 100-day plan. About three weeks have passed since the inauguration day of the U.S. president. What has the Biden administration done so far? And how to understand that?

Generally, it appears that the U.S. administration has been rather careful in managing a series of core domestic and international issues. It has taken a much softer approach, in contrast to that of the Trump administration, and has sent out some good gestures to the American people, the U.S. allies, its competitors, and the international community more broadly.

At the international level, in his inauguration address, Biden tended to downplay the U.S. military strength, while affirming the U.S. intention to lead through setting good examples and cultivating the U.S. soft power. Then on the first day of taking office, the Biden government reversed a series of acts and policies ever taken by the Trump administration. By doing so, the U.S. has returned to the Paris Climate Pact and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the WHO. Apart from that, the U.S. also pledged to receive more refugees starting from the next fiscal year. The number of refugees accepted annually by then will be increased to 125, 000, which will be more than 8 times of what the Trump administration did. These moves have generally been welcomed by the international community.

On issues concerning China and the U.S., the Biden administration reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the One China policy, and also for the first time named the Taiwan local government as a democratically elected representative. In the meantime, it banned the use of “China virus” phrase in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

On issues related to Russia and the U.S., the U.S. government extended the U.S. – Russia New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for five years after the former U.S. administration and Russia failed to reach an agreement on the extension of the treaty.

At the domestic level, on the second day after taking office, the Biden administration declared a national strategy for fighting the coronavirus pandemic, one of the measures under which is a 100-day compulsory wearing of face masks by the federal employees and contractors within the federal buildings and on the federal lands. The Biden government also promised to have enough vaccines available for the American people before the summer time.

In addition to the above sound gestures, the Biden administration has also managed to make a little further other move on foreign policy especially the U.S. foreign policy toward major powers. For instance, in his first foreign policy address on 4 February, president Biden described China as a “serious competitor”, and the U.S. is ready to work with China on the basis of defending the U.S. interests. Meanwhile, the U.S. would seek to work with its allies and partners to deal with the common challenges including some from China.

Overall, over the past three weeks, the Biden administration has carefully made a series of ambitious attempts to restore trust and stability at the domestic level, and recover the U.S. reputation at the international stage.

Apparently, the Biden government has so far mainly focused on signing executive orders and setting up the agendas of certain issues. In the coming steps, the U.S. will be paying attention to the implementation of relevant plans and agendas. It is assumed that the outcomes secured in the process of implementing the set of executive orders and agendas will more greatly affect the U.S. status as well as the U.S. relations with other powers and beyond.

Alongside the process of implementing the series of plans, a couple of issues in both the domestic and international dimensions need to be taken into account.

First, in relation to the U.S. governance capacity and domestic leadership, there is a general belief among a wide range of circles within the U.S. society that the U.S. system is resilient and has a self-recovering capacity, given that the U.S. had managed to overcome a huge number of domestic challenges in history. Some believed that the system worked well in the past, and it can still work well today. Once the pandemic is gone, and the economy is recovered, divisions within the society can be hailed from a certain degree, and people’s trust to the government can be recovered to a certain level.

Therefore, whether and how the U.S. government would be able to handle the range of domestic challenges properly in the coming steps, how the people would react to the government attempts, and how the American society would be developing after the pandemic and so on are some of the important issues yet to be seen. After all, the relevant outcomes out of the government efforts will significantly influence the U.S. government relations with the American people.

Second, with regard to the U.S. status and its relations with other powers at the international stage, there is a consensus, in particular, among the U.S. political elites that keeping closer ties with the U.S. allies should be one of the best means to make the U.S. strong and help maintain the U.S. status in the 21 Century. After taking office, the U.S. president has already spoken with some of the U.S. allies including a couple of European leaders to seek cooperation on certain core issues such as security and global governance etc.

It is not certain, after the pandemic, in what way the U.S. would tend to apply the alliance relationship strategy in terms of managing the U.S. relations with other major powers like China or Russia. More crucially, under the new circumstances, how stable the U.S. alliance relationship with others is and will be, as well as whether and in what degree the U.S. traditional allies would accommodate the U.S. policies etc. are still too early to tell. It is assumed that the practical answers to these questions in the coming years under the Biden administration should further significantly affect the U.S. international status, the U.S. relations with both its allies and competitors, and beyond.

In a special address made by Chinese president Xi at this year’s Davos Forum on 25 January, he indicated that “we cannot tackle common challenges in a divided world”. The U.S. and some other nations in recent few years have borne the consequences brought by a divided domestic society. We can imagine that a divided world would generate more disastrous repercussions to humans. A divided world should be in no country’s interest. Major powers and others should make efforts to avoid that.

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