The suggestion that Democrats be lenient with China is a recurring political theme the president has revisited throughout his four years in office. Now, as Trump prepares to take on Biden for a second term, his administration is once again amplifying anti-China rhetoric.
The campaign said it plans to bring back 1 million manufacturing jobs in China and hold the country “fully responsible for the spread of the virus around the world.”
Although concerns about China have become significantly more bipartisan in recent years, there remains an opinion among many in Washington that Chinese leaders would prefer a President Biden in 2021. It’s an idea that has received new impetus, after William Evanina, a senior US intelligence official. Beijing said in a statement last month that Beijing would rather Trump lose the election.
In an opening speech at the opening night of the Republican convention on Monday, former United Nations Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said Biden would be “great for Communist China “.
But experts say the reality is much more complex, and China’s leadership remains steadfastly divided over which candidate would best align with the country’s long-term strategic goals.
Mockery on social media
On Chinese social media, Trump has been mockingly referred to as “Chuan Jianguo” or “Build Trump Country”, with users online claiming Trump is strengthening Chinese President Xi Jinping’s regime by destroying America. Although Trump has unleashed a wave of attacks on China in the form of tariffs, sanctions and bans, he has largely acted unilaterally, without the support of key allies.
“They know Biden will be multilateralist, whether it’s on trade, whether it’s security, whether it’s even human rights,” said Stephen Orlins, chairman of the National Committee on US-China Relations . “He will take a multilateral approach from China and these people are afraid of a Biden presidency.”
According to Minxin Pei, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and author of “China’s Crony Capitalism,” Biden would restore US support to multilateral organizations, including the WHO, while strengthening trade and the Treaty Organization’s military alliances. North Atlantic (NATO) – all of which China would compel.
Susan Shirk, president of the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, said China has “lost a lot of friends in Asia” using its economic power. to force other countries to approve the Chinese Line. “If there is a Biden administration, building a stronger coalition in Asia will be much easier.”
But while a Biden presidency would be a challenge for Beijing, Trump presents something quite different for risk-averse leaders in Beijing: volatility.
Experts say this kind of unpredictability increases the risk of military escalation, in areas where interests overlap, like the South China Sea, the East China Sea and Taiwan.
“We don’t have good communication and crisis prevention with China like we did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War,” Shirk said. “So it’s a very dangerous situation.”
Pei said dividing Chinese attitudes towards Trump and Biden depended on whether Beijing officials took a short-term or long-term view. Those with a long-term view prefer Trump because they see him as incompetent and incapable of rallying allies, thus giving China more leeway. Another four years of Trump would lead to more internal divisions in America, reducing his ability to successfully wage a long-term struggle against China, Pei said.
“The Biden administration can design a long-term strategy that is sustainable, multilateral with the support of an ally, that will in fact contain Chinese power, much more effectively for the next two to three decades,” said Pei. .
Those who focus on the short term would prefer Biden, as he would put a break in the rapidly deteriorating relationship. “A Biden administration will most likely take a break from what I call this demolition process,” said Pei. It is not in the best interests of the United States to demolish the most important relationship in the world. ”