Biden Draws China Straw

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will manage the Obama administration’s China policy going forward, according to a senior White House official. From The Atlantic:

While the Departments of State and Treasury have held important functional roles in conducting the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings, raising the bilateral status of US-China relations with ongoing meetings between two senior US Executive Branch officials with two of China’s most senior leaders, Vice Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Dai Bingguo, there has been a general sense that neither Timothy Geithner nor Hillary Clinton and her team were comprehensively driving US-China policy.

The White House official made clear that the coming shift in the locus of US-China policy management was not a critique of either Clinton or Geithner’s management of the China portfolio — but rather, the rise of Hu Jintao heir apparent and current Vice Premier Xi Jinping as the likely next President of China created certain practical challenges in dealing with him on a same-status level throughout much of 2012 until Xi’s accession to the presidency is formalized.

The view of some of the administration’s China-handlers is that management of US-China policy has become so central to a vast array of other policy challenges that the administration’s approach needs to be both broad and managed with “a deep and senior bench.” The evolution of many functional offices at the Department of State and Treasury tasked with various line items in the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue has helped stabilize many aspects of the relationship and has helped to benchmark meeting to meeting progress on core concerns.

Biden visited China in August and met extensively with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, laying the groundwork for a visit by Xi to the United States in the near future. See also CDT coverage of a New York Times Op-Ed written by Biden in September 2011, in which he argued that China’s rise as a global power need not come at America’s expense.