Shadows on the Biden dream

Then beyond immigration on the policy horizon is another of Trump’s issues: the ambitions of the People’s Republic of China. The Trump-era suite of debates, on trade policy and human rights, is likely to be a backdrop to U.S. domestic politics, not an agenda-setter. But Beijing may have more than trade war and domestic repression on its mind. The combination of the Communist regime’s sense of its own post-Covid strengths and the palpable Western desire for a return to normalcy could create a window in which there’s a real danger of war over Taiwan.

Here the Biden White House, to its credit, seems well aware of the danger. If anything the administration is taking a tougher rhetorical line than Trump on some China-related issues (Trump was not exactly a zealous promoter of democracy or self-determination), while seeking a military recalibration that would prepare the U.S. for a possible defense of Taiwan against invasion.

But as Elbridge Colby and Walter Slocombe argue in a new essay for the online journal War on the Rocks, the recalibration may not keep up with China’s growing strength, and as the China-watcher Tanner Greer pointed out last September, Taiwan’s preparedness is open to question. Even with a White House attuned to the threat, an attempted annexation and a shocking American defeat are within the realm of possibility.