Thursday, January 27, 2022

Americans Lose Confidence in Biden’s Ability to Deal with China

President Biden delivers remarks at the House Democratic Caucus on the Build Back Better agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, October 28, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Image credit: Adam Schultz / Official White House Photo 

Two polls of Americans taken in mid-January 2022 reveal a sharp drop in confidence among registered voters in President Joe Biden’s ability to handle China.  

A CBS News poll of 2,094 adults conducted January 12-14, 2022 found that 59 percent disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of China issues while 41 percent approve, closely tracking with the president’s overall approval rating. From July 14 to July 17, 2021, the same poll showed that 52 percent of Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of China issues while 48 percent approved. 

A larger poll of 5,128 American adults conducted by Pew January 10-17, 2022. found that 39 percent were confident in the president’s ability to deal effectively with China while 61 percent were not confident in his ability to handle relations with a country widely viewed as an adversary of the United States. One year ago, in early February 2021, 53 percent of adults surveyed by Pew were confident of the new president’s ability to deal effectively with China while 46 percent were not confident. 

There are several reasons that might explain this lack of confidence. President Biden’s overall rating for foreign policy is underwater by double digits. There is a steady drum beat of negative stories about China in American media, with no decisive action or policies on the part of the Biden administration to counter the alleged malign activities. Finally, President Biden’s November virtual summit with Chinese President Xi yielded few results. 

The day after the summit, President Biden was interviewed on the tarmac of the Pittsburgh airport. He claimed that he and Xi had agreed to set up four working groups covering a wide range of issues. To date, information about what those four working groups are, including what they are working on, has not been disclosed.  

Low approval of President Biden’s handling of China limits his ability to take steps that might improve US-China relations, a prime example being the lifting of tariffs imposed by former president Trump. Treasury Secretary Yellen has commented that reducing tariffs can help in the fight against inflation, and more than 100 lawmakers have written a letter to the president urging the granting of more tariff exemptions on Chinese goods, a move strongly supported by the business community. President Biden was asked about lifting the tariffs during his January press conference. His response: “We’re not there yet.”