Sun, 07 Mar 2021

America's friends reacted positively to the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new President of the United States. But foes weren't universally happy. What have China, Russia and Iran been saying about the new administration in the White House?

Minutes after Joe Biden was officially inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, China issued a series of sanctions against the US.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said that "over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice against China" have executed a series of initiatives that have undermined China's interests. As a result, 28 people are being sanctioned.

The list included high-profile names - all serving in the Trump administration - such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose latest action before leaving office was to accuse China of "genocide" in its policy towards the minority Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang Autonomous Regions.

US National Trade Council director Peter Navarro, author of the book The Coming China Wars, has persistently propagated a hard line against China; Trump's China advisor, former journalist, and fluent Mandarin speaker Matthew Pottinger deeply offended China by lecturing Beijing, speaking Chinese, in a hard-hitting speech on "The importance of being candid."

'Violating China's sovereignty'

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Keith Krach, were high-level US officials who did the unthinkable by visiting Taiwan.

Trump advisors John Bolton and Stephen Bannon went out of their way to push the former president's anti-China agenda to the limits, with Bannon colluding with prominent millionaire-activist Guo Wengui in accusing China of having developed the Covid-19 virus in a laboratory.

The 28 are accused of "seriously violated China's sovereignty" and they, along with "immediate family members" are banned from visiting and doing business in China (including Hong Kong).

All eyes are now on Biden. Will he change the hard-line policy that was initiated by Donald Trump and resulted in an increasingly nasty trade war, hostile rhetoric, sanctions and threats?

The writing is on the wall since, for the first time ever, the US invited Taiwan's top representative in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, to the inauguration of Biden, an invitation which did not go unnoticed in China.

'Less confrontation'

But the normally vitriolic Global Times did, for once, not go into all-out attack mode.

"The US society's favorability toward China has declined in the past four years," the paper says, going on to suggest that "the Biden administration does not need to believe that the continuation of the previous administration's China policy is by any means a form of political correctness," adding that "the reality is that less confrontation and more cooperation represent deep parts of public opinion in all countries".

But the new US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said during his Senate confirmation hearing on 19 January that President Donald Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China - even if Blinken did not agree with all Trump's methods - and he endorsed the assessment that Beijing was committing genocide in Xinjiang."

It doesn't look as if the growing gap between China and Washington will be bridged any time soon.

Waiting game

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Biden on 15 December, after the American had won the Electoral College state-by-state vote. Like his counterparts in China, Putin is playing a waiting game to see what Biden's first diplomatic steps will be.

The US wants Russia to steer clear of Belarusian politics and support for Europe's last dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Washington also wants Russia to accept the former Soviet state of Georgia as a possible NATO member.

It is far from clear if Biden will walk away from Trump's erratic love-hate relationship with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Biden's appointment of Victoria Nuland as Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs spells doom for US-Russian relations: Nuland (notorious for her "f*** the EU" remark in a leaked telephone conversation in 2014) played a prominent role during the ouster of Ukranian president Victor Yanukovich, who had Moscow's support and who was replaced, after weeks of popular protest, with Washington's preferred candidate Artseniy Yatsenyuk.

Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, co-founder and director of the now defunct neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century, which had Trump hawk John Bolton as former director and was supported by George W. Bush-era hardliners Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

Iran

Iran meahwhile never had much hope of good relations with the US. After Biden's inauguration in Washington, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted that "Trump, Pompeo & Co. are relegated to the dustbin of history in disgrace."

But, the diplomat underlined that "'perhaps new folks in DC have learned' from the grave experiences of the former lame-duck president."

Biden is under heavy pressure to cancel Trump's decision to walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which involved restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. But he has not given an indication yet as to what course he will follow.

Originally published on RFI

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