Biden And Johnson Say The West’s Approach To China & Russia Must Be Based On Common Values. But What Does This Actually Mean?

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

The US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have been meeting at the White House and discussing, amongst bilateral trade topics, items of international interest. Top of that list has been discussions on developing an approach to China and Russia based on what the two described as ”Common Values” a somewhat oblique term. It is also centered upon what “common values” should be as defined by Washington and London – without discussions with Beijing or Moscow.

As the phrase seems set to influence the West’s future policy towards China and Russia, understanding it becomes important. Neither Biden nor Johnson have spelled out exactly what they mean by this term however, leaving it open to their interpretation. However, Robert Ferguson, a US consultant specializing in values within the business sector has identified seventeen “common values” he says are paramount. They are:

  • Integrity (Ethics, Honesty)
  • Respect (Trust, Dignity)
  • Excellence (Quality, Performance)
  • Responsibility (Accountability, Commitment)
  • Teamwork (Collaboration, Cooperation)
  • Innovation (Creativity, Ingenuity)
  • Achievement (Results, Success)
  • Fairness (Diversity, Inclusive)
  • Care (Service, Compassion)
  • Passion (Enthusiasm, Fun)
  • Leadership (Influence, Competitive Advantage)
  • Learning (Continuous Improvement, Knowledge)
  • Customers (Customer Satisfaction)
  • People (Employee Engagement)
  • Safety (Health)
  • Community (Corporate Citizenship)
  • Environment (Sustainability)

I won’t bore readers with an addendum of how these values have been breached or abused by either the United States, Britain, Russia, or China as this would rapidly descend into a long list of dubious behavior, grievances and ills perpetrated by all sides.It remains arguable in many quarters that Washington broke all 17 values during last month’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has some gall in stating that the United States represents and upholds each of these just four weeks later.

For example, “Safety” – also described as ‘Health’.

That alone is a hotly debated subject during Covid. China says it was a natural cross invading virus originating possibly from bats. The US has raised suspicions the Chinese engineered it. The Chinese have managed to keep a lid on Covid infections to 95,810. The United States has over 43 million, the UK just under 7.5 million and Russia about 7.3 million.

The point being, how do you measure safety? Because taken purely on that value and in reference to Covid, why would anyone want to follow the US and UK’s values? They are collectively and individually far more infected than either China or Russia.

Another of the seventeen values refers to “Teamwork” – defined as ‘collaboration and cooperation’. Yet Biden and Johnson see fit to exclude China and Russia and impose a mutually exclusive set of values that only they, apparently uphold when discussing ‘international issues’ – almost as if China and Russia are not part of the international community. (I can assure any worried readers that in fact, they still are).

I could go on but will refrain. Readers can debate the merits of “common values” and who has them and who doesn’t themselves. Yet I for one, feel a little uneasy about the stance taken by Biden and Johnson. It smacks of patronization and a grandstanding of moral superiority over huge swathes of the global community. At a stroke, Biden and Johnson have collectively dismissed the entire populations of China and Russia – some 1.54 billion people – of possessing a ‘different’ set of values – without actually stating what those differences are.

The combined population of the US and UK is 398 million, meaning the US and UK are attempting to inflict their perception of ‘Common Values’, unasked, upon civilizations with four times as many people. Now that is a rather weird way of promoting the democratic values both Biden and Johnson seem to want to hold up.

Dividing “Common Values” between “Us” and “Them” with the implied differences in morality, freedoms and ethics is devious, and hugely divisive. No wonder Moscow and Beijing warn of a new cold war when Biden and Johnson seek to promote differences in ideology in such terms. The two men should be ashamed. It is no way to go about collaborating or cooperating with anybody and amounts to pure moralistic grandstanding of a most repugnant type. China, Russia, and the West deserve better.

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Silk Road Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Asia, and assists foreign investors into the region. For strategic advisory and business intelligence issues please contact the firm at or visit


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