Domestic issues require Biden to stay focused
Azhar Azam

Editor's note: Azhar Azam works in a private organization as a market & business analyst and writes about geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, foreign affairs and national security have loomed large in the U.S. presidential elections. The year 2020 marked the first year over the past two decades when the domestic concerns in the country ousted foreign policy and took the driver's seat in the campaign to run the world's biggest economy.

In a speech on November 7 at his hometown Wilmington-Delaware, the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden denominated his victory as Americans' mandate for putting the accent on the same internal challenges such as the coronavirus, economy, climate change, and systemic racism and promised to unite the blue and red states.

Biden's overriding priority upon assuming the office will indeed be to contain the rampant infection rate and revive collapsing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which although leaped 7.4 percent from the spring lockdown, was still 4 percent below its previous peak and continues to stave off the jobs of millions of American workers.

Realizing no economic strategy could work unless the disease is defeated, the near-term president intends to use all constitutional powers, including the wartime legislation, Defense Production Act (DPA), to turn the ride on the pandemic. Unlike Donald Trump, he is prepared to listen to public experts and seeks to increase testing capacity, improve the ability to trace contacts, and surge equipment and supplies manufacturing before reopening the economy.

The COVID-19 doesn't distinguish between American and non-American. It has adversely affected the health and life of almost all rich and poor countries indiscriminately and stroked devastating shocks to both mature and immature economies across the world, urging all the global governments to act wisely and shield their people.

Along these lines, it might just be the right move to bring the economy back on track, buoyed up by the vaccine development and continued fiscal stimulus. But as the change of leadership can't beget a meaningful change in 2021 growth and it remains to be seen how bipartisan consensus is evolved in 2022 and 2023, the Biden administration would be ensnared in fixing the domestic issues for the next few years.

Climate change is the other major issue Biden says poses an existential threat to the U.S. environment, health, communities, national security, and economic well-being. His biodiversity approach vies with that of Trump, who downplays the scientific recommendations to strengthen the air pollution standards for soot (or PM2.5).

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates' debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020. /Reuters

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates' debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020. /Reuters

Former vice president's avowal to rejoin the Paris Agreement, assurance to achieve 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050 where stirred voters and took a significant step toward protecting the U.S. Wests from wildfires, his transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy could create millions of new jobs, only if he sticks to his promise.

In 2017, China invested three times more than the U.S. in clean energy. Biden wants to reclaim this principal advantage, which gave Beijing an edge on the technologies of tomorrow, generating pay-well jobs. If followed fairly, the environment-friendly and human-centered race between the two largest greenhouse gas emitters and leading economies would accelerate the pace toward a greener world and sustainable prosperity.

As the U.S. is lagging behind China and Europe in rail safety and speed, Biden's plan to provide Americans the cleanest, safest and fastest rail system could redraw the government's attention on the development of a nationwide infrastructure that is dangerously overstretched and require 2 trillion U.S. dollars by 2025 to fill the funding gap.

Yet Biden needs to redress his misconception that China, through its massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is financing billions of dollars of dirty fossil fuel projects across Asia and beyond. With Beijing made a commitment to attain zero-carbon neutrality before 2060 and start cutting its emissions within the next 10 years, the American Enterprise Institute's data shows the non-fossil fuel investments in the first six months of 2020 had already dominated the overall BRI energy investments.

China is strongly committed to fighting global warming. Chinese investments and construction of more than 80 hydropower projects across the six continents, while implementing green development guidelines and setting high environmental protection standards, underscore that it is arraying all possible means including enforcing regulatory framework and taking voluntary initiatives to preserve the biodiversity in the BRI host countries.

Imran Khan – the Prime Minister of Pakistan, an important BRI partner and a leading recipient of the energy investments from China – in June warmly welcomed the construction of 1,124MW Kohala hydropower project of 2.4 billion U.S. dollars by a Chinese company. The staunch advocate of climate change said that "the country's biggest-ever foreign investment" would help Islamabad to focus on green and clean power generation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Biden's bold statements during the campaign to move the U.S. away from oil and gas though enraged the strong fracking industry – believing the U.S. actually required hydrocarbon production for decades – but lent him a sweeping majority in the election. The crushing win must not be washed away as he is reportedly mulling over to pick controversial hires for the key posts, prompting protests from the public and climate activists.

The U.S. is facing unprecedented domestic challenges hardly seen before. As the virus pegs health and life, slower economic recovery is threatening millions of workforce, the hot temperature has torched more than 4.1 million acres in California, and racism continues to strengthen its roots – the deafening crisis entreat Biden to keep an emphasis on these core internal issues and fulfill his promise to make America respected again in the world and keep Americans united at home.

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