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The Republican campaigning strategy in recent years has focused on portraying Democrats, especially President Biden, as being soft on China, contrasting this with supposed toughness under Donald Trump’s administration. However, Trump’s ban on TikTok was a cornerstone of this argument, however, he later reversed his position after meeting with a billionaire connected to the company. Despite his tough talk, Trump lacked a coherent strategy for dealing with China, whereas Biden has quietly taken a tough stance on trade, especially with China, through a sophisticated economic nationalism approach.

Biden’s policies are tougher on China than Trump’s protectionist measures, with China recently filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the Inflation Reduction Act, which subsidizes the transition to a low-emission economy, particularly favoring domestic production. China’s complaint is seen as bold considering its extensive history of discriminatory policies and subsidies for favored companies. The Biden administration has made it clear that they will not allow Chinese exports to disrupt the link between job creation and climate policy, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warning against China’s green energy overcapacity resulting from excessive subsidies.

Despite China’s complaint to the W.T.O., Biden’s tough stance on China extends beyond electric vehicle subsidies, as the U.S. is also promoting semiconductor production to reduce dependence on China and imposing limits on technology exports to hinder Chinese technological progress. While some may feel nervous about Biden’s stringent policies, believing they are necessary and the right approach, unlike Trump’s ineffective and inconsistent approach to China during his presidency. Biden’s policies appear to be working as evidenced by China’s recent actions.

Despite Republicans continuing to claim that Biden is soft on China, the reality is that Biden is wielding a substantial stick when it comes to dealing with China, even though he may speak softly. Trump, on the other hand, appeared tough on China in public but did not follow through with effective policies. The Chinese government’s actions, including filing the complaint with the W.T.O., suggest that they understand the true nature of Biden’s approach, even if it may not align with their preferences. Biden’s tough approach to China stands in stark contrast to Trump’s rhetoric, showcasing the differences in their strategies and effectiveness in dealing with China.

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