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Sep 5, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 47 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
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As it happens, one has difficulty naming who ought to have been sent to China in Biden’s stead. The Chinese need to be convinced simultaneously of American strength and American goodwill. The relatively pro-American side of internal Chinese political battles needs ammunition to use against the officials who think their best way to maintain control of the increasingly unruly population is to make an enemy of the United States and begin a second Cold War. The pro-business pieces of the Chinese mosaic want to be able to make large industrial purchases in the United States, exchanging for equity some of the enormous American debt they hold. The Communists want to use Pakistan to destabilize southern Asia and thereby make advances against India. The democracy activists—including the rising flood of Christian converts—want the United States to be a beacon of individual freedom and faith.

Even if the White House had a coherent foreign policy to deal with all this, who in the government has enough seriousness and weight to travel to China and convey such a policy? Under President Obama, we have an administration that appears to other nations to stand for little except incompetence—and to lack senior officials of any importance who might ease the international situation.

Still, there was something disturbingly weak and peculiar about giving the task to our gaffe-prone vice president. Did we have to send China our court jester? Did we have to send Joe Biden, dressed all in motley?

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