Vienna, Austria (Weltexpress). The donkey is the mascot of the Democrats – in contrast to the elephant of the Republicans. Not because the donkey is so stupid: The democratic grey one came about during the election campaign of 1828, President Andrew Jackson being reviled as “Jackass” by his opponents. He promptly translated this into positive terms – after all, the donkey embodies stubbornness, strength of will and perseverance. Will the new US President Joe Biden live up to this claim – especially with regard to the Asian tigers? Biden made “America is back!” to his motto – as a contrast to Trump’s jingoistic “Make America great again!” – with which the ex-president trampled through all the well: china shops.
At the time, the Obama-Biden team still saw China as a potential partner. That has changed since then: the new US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, has bluntly described China as the greatest threat to the US. The Democrats have adopted Trump’s point of view, even surpassed it. The allies in the Southeast Asian region should prepare for “long-term strategic competition” with the Middle Kingdom, Biden said at the virtual Munich security conference on February 18: “Competition with China is going to be stiff.” At the same time, he praised the world to fight for democracy, to “defend it, to strengthen it, to renew it”.
Human rights violations by the Burmese military regime are getting worse every day. China has an immense strategic interest in Myanmar, which forms the bridge between Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Beijing is playing down the army coup as a mere “cabinet reshuffle”. The American-Chinese rivalry in Southeast Asia – with 700 million inhabitants almost as many as all of Europe – is intensifying. The Southeast Asian regimes see themselves in a dilemma: secretly they hope for support from the States, but they shy away from a clear position reference and the confrontation with the powerful neighbor China. The US nuclear protective shield extends over the economically strong so called “tiger”, the allied democracies South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, which feel increasingly threatened by a militant, armed China. Japan in particular is skeptical as to whether Trump’s successor will show sufficient strength against China. The sword of Damocles of forced reunification with the Stalinist north hangs over South Korea and the “other China” Taiwan sees itself more and more threatened by the saber rattling of the rising sea power PRC in full Peoples Republic of China – invasion and annexation have turned from ghosts into real dangers.
Will Biden have the willpower and perseverance of the proverbial donkey with regard to Beijing?