U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to remain focused on efforts to counter China's rise despite the Republican Party's retaking of the House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, given the rare bipartisan support for taking on Beijing.

Fears of a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan could also see both parties giving greater weight to Washington's alliances in the Indo-Pacific, a development that would come as a relief to countries such as Japan, which faced immense pressure to pay more for its defense under former Republican President Donald Trump's "America First" policy.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington on Nov. 9, 2022, a day after the midterm elections. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

But the determination of Biden's Democrat administration to "out-compete" China is unlikely to be any less challenging even with bipartisan support.

Some U.S. foreign policy experts, meanwhile, warn of isolationist sentiment among some Republicans, who may feel reluctant to see the United States coming to the aid of Taiwan in the event of an emergency.

Inheriting the Trump administration's hawkish stance toward Beijing, the Biden administration has labeled China as the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and the power to do so, and has rallied allies and partners around the world to push back against it.

Biden's administration has also maintained massive Trump-era tariffs imposed on Chinese goods, ramped up investment into U.S. semiconductor production and rolled out a sweeping set of export controls targeting Beijing's ability to access certain high-end chips and develop artificial intelligence.

During the election campaign, Republicans sought to showcase their own toughness toward Beijing, with House members committing to move supply chains away from China as part of efforts to reduce reliance on foreign nations for critical supplies, medicines and technology.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is likely to become speaker of the chamber, has pledged to launch a select committee on China to look into various issues including alleged Chinese thefts of U.S. technology and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, initially detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Jeffrey Hornung, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation, a nonpartisan U.S. research organization, said he does not expect much to change in U.S. foreign and security policy in the Indo-Pacific, since attitudes toward China are "so bipartisan."

While the Republican Party's gains could overshadow the Biden administration's desire to tackle climate change and other "nontraditional" concerns, the impact on "hard traditional security issues" will likely be limited, he said.

Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, also said he believes Republicans and Democrats have a "general agreement" on countering China.

But he warned of the risks of isolationism, as seen in questions raised by some Republicans over continuing to provide massive U.S. aid to Ukraine for its fight against Russia's invasion -- an issue that once seemed to command bipartisan consensus.

With Taiwan coming under the spotlight as a possible military flashpoint after Ukraine, Kurlantzick said, "there may be some GOP isolationists who might want to move away from what is emerging as a policy of virtually clearly stating the U.S. would defend Taiwan."

Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split due to a civil war in 1949. China has since endeavored to bring the self-ruled democratic island back into its fold, with 2027 seen as a date Beijing may be aiming at to ready its military capability to seize the island.

Biden has said several times the United States is committed to the defense of Taiwan, even though Washington's long-standing stance is to maintain so-called strategic ambiguity regarding the use of military force in response to a Chinese invasion.

Ted Gover, a director at Claremont Graduate University with expertise on Asian affairs, said anti-interventionist views held by some Republicans could be about concentrating resources to address China while cutting spending for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Middle East or elsewhere.

Indeed, concerns over China's rise, he said, are likely to force the new Congress to be "supportive" of Taiwan and U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Japan, meanwhile, with its neighbors China, North Korea and Russia all making the security environment severe, has vowed to fundamentally reinforce its defense capabilities within five years, indicating that acquiring longer-range strike capabilities could be an option.

Hornung said the United States, regardless of which party controls Congress, is expected to support "anything that Japan does to try to strengthen its defenses."

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducts an artillery live-fire drill jointly with the U.S. Marine Corps at the GSDF's Yausubetsu training ground in Hokkaido, northern Japan, on Oct. 10, 2022, using an MLRS launcher. The training for the defense of remote islands in Japan was open to the media. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

From the U.S. standpoint, Japan, an ally hosting roughly 54,000 U.S. troops, is "the most reliable, robust defense partner in the region," he said.

But the expert on Japanese security said there is "always that drumbeat" of demand from Republicans on allies' defense spending, and that a failure to drastically beef up outlays "could come back to hurt Japan" if they recapture the White House following the 2024 presidential election.

He said Washington's expectations have already been raised, given that Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has floated the idea of aiming to double defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product, or about 11 trillion yen ($79 billion).

As competition intensifies with China also on the economic front, trade experts remain skeptical as to whether the United States can reassert its engagement in Asia through a newly launched trade-facilitation initiative known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which will not involve talks to offer U.S. market access.

Beijing has been stepping up its trade diplomacy in the region, being already part of a mega free-trade deal involving 14 other Asia-Pacific nations and applying to join a trans-Pacific agreement from which Trump withdrew the United States in 2017.

Inu Manak, a trade policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the best way to counter China is to "embrace the things that make the U.S. economy so competitive in the world," such as liberalizing trade, attracting investment and allowing immigration to fuel the growing economy.

But Republicans, who used to be supportive of free trade, have largely shifted during the Trump era to favor protectionism. The Biden administration also does not want to touch on issues such as the removal of China tariffs and the opening up of U.S. markets because it is afraid to be seen as easing up on Beijing, she said.

"It's hard to see that that rhetoric (focused on increased protectionism) changing here anytime in the near future," Manak added.

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