Desk or house, same policy-making flaws remain
The United States launched the Office of China Coordination at the State Department to replace the previous China Desk on Friday last week.
That it took about seven months for the plan of setting up the cross-department "China House" to materialize after it was first proposed indicates the tremendous amount of work it took, if not the wide implications of Sino-US relations that stretch across security, the economy, technology and multilateral diplomacy and strategic exchanges.
As some observers said, this represents a core move of the US administration to strengthen its global competition with China, and the Biden administration's making and implementation of China policies will become more coordinated.
During that process, the China House is expected to make the adjustment of China policies in case of emergencies more prompt, and reduce the information asymmetry related to China issues among different departments of the US government by promoting effective sharing of China-related information in a timely manner.
The founding of the new department also means that, compared with the efficiency and high executive power the Chinese side has demonstrated in dealing with the US, the Biden administration was unhappy with the rigid and sometimes discordant performances of the US government system. That makes many employees of the government crestfallen in dealing with China-related issues. So the Biden administration also hopes the new task force can instill confidence into the government staff and show that it has enough resources and the necessary capacity to properly manage "China-related challenges".
However, it is the Biden administration's mind-boggling self-contradictory China policies that simultaneously emphasize confrontation, competition and cooperation that have made it impossible for the US to adopt a coherent approach to China.
Different departments' interests are also at odds with each other when it comes to China as the administration has politicized technology, industry, security, trade, and cooperation on the pandemic and climate change. While the trade, industry, financial and climate departments want to lift the additional tariffs on imports from China to reduce inflation and protect interests of US businesses and promote bilateral cooperation, the intelligence and security departments have set up new impediments for the normalization of regular interactions between the two countries.
As such, if the Biden administration cannot resolve its strategic ambiguity toward China, it will not be able to improve its performances on China-related issues simply by slapping a new label on an old bottle.