Special Forum

In the early autumn of 2020, when Joe Biden was leading decisively in the polls, many in the Indo-Pacific region were reflecting on what his policy would be to China, Japan, India, and the region more broadly. Would he break sharply from Donald Trump’s approach? Would he revert to the Obama administration’s policies? Are there grounds to foresee a multilateral Democratic foreign policy distinct from that of Trump’s and responsive to far-reaching recent developments? New leadership in Japan with Suga Yoshihide replacing Abe Shinzo also prompted a spate of queries about how Japan’s policy might change whether in dealing again with Trump or addressing the new Biden administration. The rising momentum in Indo-US relations showcased in the October 6 Quadrilateral Security Dialogue held in Tokyo could be accelerated by Biden, joined by Kamala Harris as the first Indian-American vice-president, or derailed by the Democrats’ greater stress on human rights. Whereas Trump waved the US stick more over the South China Sea, he had dropped the economic carrot of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Biden was advised to adopt a comprehensive regional strategy beyond the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and to join summits.

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