Joe Biden has created a Pentagon task force to help craft a comprehensive China policy that will examine everything from the deployment of US forces around the world to relations with the Chinese military.
The US president announced the formation of the working group during a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday. The task force, which will include uniformed officers and civilians, will produce recommendations within four months. It will be led by Ely Ratner, a China expert and Pentagon official.
Biden said the task force would “work quickly . . . so that we can chart a strong path forward on China”.
“It will require a whole-of-government effort, bipartisan co-operation with Congress and strong alliances and partnerships,” Biden added. “That’s how we’ll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition in the future.”
The Pentagon said the task force would be a “sprint effort” that would examine issues including technology, intelligence, and US relations with allies.
The move comes as the new administration formulates its policy after a turbulent period under former president Donald Trump when US-China relations declined to their lowest point since diplomatic ties were established four decades ago.
Trump took an aggressive stance towards China over issues ranging from its trade practices to concerns about cyber espionage and its activity in the South China Sea.
The Biden team has displayed signs it will maintain a tough posture towards Beijing. The state department recently warned China to stop trying to intimidate Taiwan after Chinese warplanes entered the country’s air defence zone and simulated an attack on a nearby US aircraft carrier strike group.
The USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt conducted rare dual aircraft carrier training exercises in the South China Sea, only the second time that the US navy has carried out such training in the area since 2012.
Biden on Sunday said China would face “extreme competition” from the US. While he praised his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as “very bright”, the US president said Xi “doesn’t have a democratic . . . bone in his body”.
“I’ve said to him all along that we need not have a conflict,” Biden told CBS. “But there’s going to be extreme competition . . . I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road.”
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, last week told Yang Jiechi, his Chinese counterpart, that the US would stand up for democracy and human rights, and hold China to account for its “abuses” of the international system.
Top Biden administration officials have criticised China over its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and the detention of an estimated 1m Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. Blinken said he agreed with the Trump administration that the repression of the Uighurs was “genocide”.
Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, has said the administration was prepared to “impose costs for what China is doing in Xinjiang, what it is doing in Hong Kong, for the bellicosity and threats that it is projecting towards Taiwan”.
In a speech to a US audience last week, Yang blamed the dismal state of relations on the Trump administration, and expressed hope Beijing and Washington could improve ties.
But Yang also warned the Biden team not to cross any “red lines”, including by interfering in Chinese policy regarding Hong Kong, Tibet or Xinjiang.