ang8_ANGELA WEISSAFP via Getty Images_joe biden Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Can America Lead Again?

The US president-elect has advanced a vision of America that is back in charge of the liberal international order. But while that would go a long way toward enabling constructive competition with China, there is good reason to believe that Americans do not want their country to lead again.

ANN ARBOR – US President-elect Joe Biden’s impending inauguration has raised hopes that his administration will “make America lead again.” If the United States is to transform its rivalry with China into constructive competition, this is the right approach. But whether Biden can restore and sustain America’s global leadership depends on how effectively he mends domestic fractures and addresses deep-seated misgivings about globalization held by segments of the US electorate.

Biden has repeatedly pledged to restore America’s international reputation and global standing, which were severely damaged under Donald Trump. To that end, he will quickly rejoin multilateral institutions (such as the World Health Organization) and international agreements (beginning with the Paris climate agreement) from which Trump withdrew the US.

These pledges point to a vision of the US back at the head of the liberal international order, a position from which it can more effectively compete – and cooperate – with China. But there is good reason to believe that many Americans do not want their country to lead again.

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