Biden must focus on soft power instead of military threat to overcome China

By Mason Quah

THE past four years of US politics have shaken America’s relations with traditionally close allies, providing new opportunities for China’s diplomatic dominance.

While Trump sought a more nationalist path, Biden will hope to be able to rebuild the alliances that could maintain American hegemony.

Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean Diplomat and former President of the UN Security Council, told Redaction Politics that a Biden administration must harness the US’ soft power to improve relations abroad – and maintain America’s status amid a rising China.

Mr Mahbubani sees America’s future soft power as contingent on the nation’s ability to resolve their current internal conflicts. There is no geopolitical manoeuvre that can fix America’s poverty crisis, political corruption or opioid epidemic.

Diverting financial and political resources to this problem would mean ceding some portion of American hard power.

He said: “The biggest mistake that America has been making has been using the military arm for its foreign policy more than the diplomatic or economic arms. China hasn’t fought a war in more than 40 years.

“In contrast the United States has been dropping bombs every year. In the last year of Obama’s presidency the United States dropped 26,000 bombs on seven countries.

“As a friend to America I keep trying to say ‘stop, stop fighting wars’ because America has spent five trillion dollars on post-9/11 wars. That money would have been better spent on the American people.”

During a previous panel debate on the viability of a hard stance against Beijing, he argued that “if China is not brought in as part of the solution it will be part of the problem.”

Under the Trump administration, America ceded a significant amount of soft power in East Asia through their withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The trade deal, organised under the Obama administration, was intended to act as a counterweight to Chinese economic expansion.

Obama’s soft power approach to China, while softer, was still confrontational in trying to contain the opposing superpower.

In a recent interview with the Atlantic, however, Obama said: “I could not have a trade war in 2009 or 2010.

“At that point I needed the cooperation of China as well as Europe as well as every other potential [growth] engine, just to restart the global economy.”

He added that it was “entirely legitimate” for Biden to press China much harder on several issues.

Outside of the macroeconomic sphere, Mr Mahbubani said the defining argument for the American way of life was not grounded in the US arsenal – but, in a throwback to the Cold War, the way of life.

America’s political influence was grounded in the promise of fulfilment and happiness under their system- but in recent decades, American democratic and economic systems have had their flaws increasingly exposed.

Mr Mahbubani said: “In a democracy you have a government of the people, by the people, for the people, but that’s not America: In America you have a Government of the one per cent, by the one per cent, for the one per cent.

“The playing field field is now so heavily tilted in favour of the rich that the poor cannot go up any more. They can no longer enjoy social mobility so the American Dream has been destroyed.”

Featured Image: Pixabay

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