US President Joe Biden's brand-new IPEF looks somewhat less than overwhelming. Photo: WikiCommons

TOKYO – Shakespeare seemed to be in the room this week when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed Joe Biden’s big play for Asian leadership as “doomed to fail.” But Wang doth protest too much, methinks, over US President Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

But it already seems doomed in Washington, where lawmakers must approve any trade scheme with real impact. The fact that Biden’s IPEF is more symbolic than operational – an executive order issued overseas – means it will fail to contain China the way Biden hopes.

That’s not to say it’s a pointless exercise. President Xi Jinping’s bombast in recent years and collateral damage from the “zero Covid” policy only increased the desire in many corners of Asia for a more engaged US.

A 2017 decision by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump to tear up the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement was a boon for Xi’s Communist Party, giving China a freer hand to negotiate its own pacts. Trump’s blunder was a nightmare for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party.