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Luisa Vieira

GOP-led US House will get tougher on China — but not as much as you'd think

Republicans succeeded in unseating Democratic leadership of the House in this US midterm election and will take control of the lower chamber early next year. Still, one foreign policy issue that seems to enjoy unusual bipartisan consensus in Washington is China. While there’s some truth to that assessment, there are differences in the China-related issues that each party tends to emphasize. There’s also quite a lot of partisan politics undergirding deliberation and debate over China.

Both parties are vying to position themselves as the better choice to lead the United States in rising to the China challenge. The Republican primary for the 2024 presidential race will get underway soon, and GOP hopefuls will be competing with each other, seeking to convey to voters their credentials as critics of the Chinese Communist Party. More than 80% of Americans now hold unfavorable views of China, but Republican voters express comparatively greater concern, and that is reflected in GOP candidates’ relatively outspoken support for hawkish China policy.

For both of these reasons, even though the Biden administration continues to take a tough line on China, Eurasia Group analyst Anna Ashton fully expects a Republican-controlled US Congress to charge that the White House is not being tough enough. We asked her how this might affect American policy toward Beijing.

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U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Bali.

Reuters

Biden and Xi’s Bali face-off: Agenda, forecast, and sticking points

On Monday, US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met for their first face-to-face meeting since Biden was elected in 2020. “I look forward to working with you, Mr. President, to bring China-U.S. relations back to the track of health and stable development for the benefit of our two countries and the world as a whole,” Xi told Biden.

What’s at stake: Stopping the Russia-Ukraine war, Taiwan’s sovereignty and defense, North Korea’s increased weapons testing, battling COVID, resumption of global supply chains, and tackling climate change.

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Paige Fusco

Biden’s “new” Taiwan policy: strategic clarity or confusion?

China on Monday blasted the US for egging on Taiwan “separatists” after President Joe Biden vowed that the US would defend the self-ruled island from a Chinese invasion. Okay, nothing new here, right? Not exactly.

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Ari Winkleman

What We’re Watching: US mulls China sanctions, Uzbek talks focus on ‘cooperation,’ US train strike averted

Will the US preemptively sanction China over Taiwan?

If you thought US-China ties couldn't get any icier, think again. Washington is reportedly mulling sanctions in a bid to deter Beijing from invading Taiwan — and nudging the EU to follow suit. No specifics yet, but the package would presumably target the Chinese military, which has upped the muscle-flexing ante near the self-ruled island since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in early August. Such a move would be similar to how the US and its allies warned Russia there would be a steep price to pay for invading Ukraine. Taiwan would welcome preemptive sanctions and has long called for the Americans and, more recently, the Europeans to do more to protect the island against Chinese aggression. But any sanctions would also rile Xi Jinping, who’s up for “reelection” next month and has vowed to reunite the island with the mainland before the 100th anniversary of the People's Republic in 2049 – by force, if necessary. While the White House has refused to comment, a sanctions plan could signal that US intelligence believes Xi might make a play for Taiwan sooner rather than later.

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Gabriella Turrisi

The Graphic Truth: As US arms Taiwan, China arms itself

The White House announced on Friday that it plans to sell Taiwan $1.1 billion worth of new weapons, its biggest arms sale to the self-governing island since President Joe Biden took office. It's also the first since China upended the status quo in the Taiwan Strait in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's uber-controversial trip to Taipei.

For decades, the US has sold weapons to Taiwan over China's strong objections. While Beijing claims the island is part of the People's Republic of China, Washington does not take a position on the question of Taiwan's sovereignty, holding that the issue should be resolved peacefully by both sides — while supporting Taiwan's self-defense capabilities. But tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan have been rising as the US-China relationship deteriorates more broadly.

If China were to someday invade Taiwan — which it regards as a renegade province that sooner or later will be brought under mainland control — would the US come to the island's defense? A 1979 law provides "strategic ambiguity" on whether America would have to do so. In the meantime, US arms sales have bolstered Taiwan's defense deterrent while China's military budget has skyrocketed.

We take a look at US military sales to Taiwan compared with China's own defense spending since 1990.

A newspaper front page reporting about Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit is pictured in Taipei.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

Symbolism matters — Taiwan's post-Pelosi politics

Now that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has left Taiwan, most of the attention will likely shift to how China responds, how the US responds to China's response, and how this all plays out in US domestic politics. But spare a thought for the self-governing democratic island of 23 million caught in the crossfire between Beijing and Washington.

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Osama bin Laden sits with his successor Ayman al-Zawahri.

REUTERS/Hamid Mir

What We’re Watching: US kills Al-Qaida leader, Pelosi's Taiwan pit stop, Yemen holds its breath, tensions rise between Kosovo and Serbs

US kills al-Qaida leader

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday night to make an announcement 21 years in the making: the US killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike in Kabul over the weekend. Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man and key architect in the 9/11 terror attacks was killed in the first US attack in Afghanistan since the American withdrawal last August. The operation – a major counterterrorism coup for Biden – reportedly saw al-Zawahri killed at the home of a staffer to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. A CIA ground team, with the help of aerial reconnaissance, has confirmed the death. “My hope is that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure,” Biden told loved ones of 9/11 victims. He also warned that the US “will always remain vigilant … to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.” With al-Qaida franchises having cropped up globally over the past decade, the death of Zawahri – who was wary of the brand’s localization and its effect on his authority – will present a challenge for control of the militant group.

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A reporter raises a hand to ask a question to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington, DC.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Will she, won’t she? The fallout from Pelosi’s Taiwan talk

Nancy Pelosi’s office announced Sunday that the US House speaker will be going this week to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. But no mention of Taiwan, even after she met Singaporean officials on Monday.

This doesn’t necessarily mean she’s skipping her previously announced intention to tour the self-governing island of 24 million claimed by China. Perhaps the stopover was left out of her finalized itinerary anyway due to “security concerns” following threats from Beijing and the cold shoulder from the Pentagon and the White House.

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