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Biden’s China policy lacks a ‘grand ambition’

EVANSTON, Ill. — Ahead of the first face-to-face meeting today between senior U.S. and Chinese officials since Biden took office, global affairs experts from Northwestern University break down the renewed policy posture toward China and the intricacies of pushing back on the Asian giant’s ambitions.

Annelise Riles is professor of law and executive director of the Buffett Institute of Global Affairs at Northwestern. She can be reached by contacting Mohamed Abdelfattah at

Quote from Professor Riles
“This [the Quad] is a much weaker attempt at trans-Pacific engagement to counter the rise of China than was the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“TPP included Asia-Pacific societies together from the bottom up. It was an ideal, like the European Union, of trying to bring nations together through trade. Here, there is no such grand ambition. The alliance is so far merely tactical, and very top down.

“TPP failed because ordinary people did not understand its purpose or trust the negotiators. The Quad could also fall prey to nationalism in any of the four countries if the public is not engaged.”

Ian Hurd is professor of political science and director of the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern. He can be reached by contacting Mohamed Abdelfattah at

Quote from Professor Hurd
“The group is severely limited by the reliance of its member countries on China as a customer, a source of goods, and a partner in many other endeavors.

“It’s impossible to imagine the Quad expanding to NATO-scale because of the fundamental co-dependence among China, the U.S., Japan, Australia and India in the world economy.”

Achal Bassamboo is professor of operations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. He can be reached by contacting Molly Lynch at 773-505-9719 or

Quote from Professor Bassamboo
“This alliance definitely counterbalances the reliance on China, but Indian manufacturing capability as stated does not seem new.

“Before COVID, India was already producing 60% of the world's vaccines and has been a hub for biopharma manufacturing at low cost. Before the vaccine was discovered, it was projected that India would play a key role in vaccination due to the capacity it already has in this space. Perhaps the novelty of the talks is sharing of information which can allow these facilities to act as contract manufacturers for established drugs and speed up the availability of the vaccine.”

Rajeev Kinra is associate professor of history at Northwestern. He can be reached by contacting

Quote from Professor Kinra on India
“Narendra Modi’s government has built a climate of intolerance and trashed values of freedom, inclusion and democracy.

“I think the Quad should be leveraged to pressure Modi to live up to the values expressed in the joint statement, let alone the Indo-Pacific.”