Biden’s State nominee says Trump was right to take a tougher approach on China

China will be a major concern for President Biden, just as it was for Trump. Biden's nominee to head the State Department told senators that Trump was right to take a tougher approach on China, even though he disagreed with how Trump went about it. (Getty Images)

As President-elect Biden assumes office on Wednesday, his administration’s focus will be divided between COVID-19 vaccinations, the economy and China, among a list of other major concerns. Biden’s China policies, just like those of President Trump, will continue to have a significant impact on the U.S. technology sector.

 The Information Technology Foundation, a Washington think tank on Tuesday called for a new U.S. doctrine that enables American information technology and digital innovation to advance while also constraining digital adversaries such as China.

ITIF released a report that calls on President-elect Biden and other policy leaders to adopt and advance a more pragmatic focus than in the past.  Called the doctrine of “digital realpolitik,” this focus would recognize that the U.S. cannot rely on persuasion but must exert pressure to make other nations comply with U.S. interests.

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The report surfaced on the same day that Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told a Senate panel weighing his confirmation that “we can outcompete China.”  He told the senators,  “President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach on China,” but added, “I disagree with many of the ways he went about it.”

Blinken also told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that China poses the most significant challenge to the U.S. of any nation.  Competition with China needs to come from a “position of strength, not a position of weakness.” He urged closer coordination with allies.

ITIF President Robert Atkinson, the author of the new report, said the policies of open markets, international trade, less regulation and the rule of law may have worked in the past before China became a systemic competitor and adversary and Russia and other nations became bad actors.  He also criticized the European Union and other developing states for embracing what he called “digital protectionism.”

The report calls on the U.S. with the EU and non-aligned nations to “isolate, punish and defend against IT and digital “scofflaws” such as Russia.  It also urged the U.S. to form an alliance against Chinese innovation mercantilism. “If possible, this alliance should be expanded to include the EU and non-aligned nations to cooperate against China,” according to the report.

ITIF warned that the U.S. faces the risk that much of the world, including the EU could align against American IT and digital interests.

“The next decade will be divisive for the global digital economy generally,” Atkinson said. “We can move to a world dominated by the EU’s innovation-limiting regulations and China’s technology predation and authoritarianism, which will undermine U.S. and global innovation. Or the U.S. can press for a world in which appropriate technology and regulatory policy enable IT and digital innovation to flourish…”