China fears 'one last act of Trump madness'

Shenzhen TV asks an international relations expert how Joe Biden will deal with trade friction, Taiwan, rights and whether Trump, the outgoing president, may do something crazy in the 70 days before Biden takes over as US president

China fears 'one last spell of Trump madness'

(ATF) Chinese state media informed its citizens on the weekend that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had won the seat of Pennsylvania and secured more than 270 Electoral College votes – the amount needed to win the US election – and will thus become the 46th president of the United States, acknowledging reports from global media outlets such as Associated Press, CNN and the BBC.

This led to comparisons with the Trump administration and a lot of speculation on what changes will the Biden administration have for China. After entering the White House, will Biden insist on "engagement with China" – or choose "decoupling between China and the US?” a Chinese TV programme in Shenzhen asked.

In recent years, Trump's administration banned China's telecommunications company Huawei from having access to high technology. Will Biden "turn" and strengthen cooperation with China instead? And what about Taiwan? Trump “lacked understanding of the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue,” and repeatedly crossed that red line in Sino-US relations, the programme said

Shenzhen Satellite TV interviewed Guo Xiangang, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, to get some answers - on some key points of interest, such as 'Will China and the US cooperate to fight the epidemic?' and will the Chinese see 'any further acts of madness' by the outgoing US leader.

The TV station showed a clip of Biden being asked "how will you deal with the China problem after being elected?" in the third debate televised before the election. He replied saying I "will follow international rules to deal with China." That led to questions put to Guo: "So in your opinion, this indicates how Biden will deal with China? Will there be room for maneuvre in the Sino-US trade war? The Huawei issue? And the so-called "decoupling" between China and the US?"

Guo Xiangang told the TV station: "Biden's election win looked solid. In terms of what adjustments he will make to Sino-US relations after he takes office? I personally think that there are several aspects: one is in the fight against the epidemic. I think Biden and Trump are different. He respects science and the opinions of scientists. This is in stark contrast to Trump’s 'dumping' of China. This provides a relatively large space for cooperation between China and the United States in fighting the epidemic and developing vaccines."

He was then asked about US-China trade relations. Guo said after Biden takes power, bilateral trade frictions will not decrease, because the cohesion in the economic structure between China and the United States was weakening. As a Democratic Party candidate, Biden’s support base was trade unions and a large number of workers. So, he wants to protect the interests of trade unions and would ask China to buy more American products. Therefore, the economic and trade friction between China and the United States would still rise – this would not change. 

"How to deal with the contradictions in Sino-US economic and trade relations, I think Biden and Trump are different. During the Trump era, tariffs were arbitrarily increased and prices were arbitrarily charged. As Biden respects international law and international organisations, cases of economic and trade friction between China and the United States can be arbitrated in the WTO [world Trade Organisation]. In other words, when Biden is elected president of the United States, the settlement of contradictions in Sino-US trade will be more rule-based."

'More aggressive on rights'

Thirdly, Guo said: “I think the Democratic Party is more aggressive in the field of human rights. After Biden takes office, the pressure on China in the field of human rights will increase – the efforts to make a fuss about Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong will increase.

“[But] for Trump's blindly suppression of Huawei and China's high-tech industry, the United States is actually dissatisfied – its high-tech sector, because it also harms their interests. I think because these high-tech fields generally support Biden, he may take a more sensible approach in this regard. In other words, the high technology of China and the United States may be allowed to cooperate, compete, and develop in competition, instead of blindly blocking and suppressing.”

The Shenzhen Satellite TV reporter then asked if Biden would repair alliances and jointly check and balance China, as some observers indicated that, unlike Trump’s “single fight”, Biden may, on the basis of “returning to the Asia-Pacific”, join forces with Japan, South Korea, India and other countries to increase military deterrence against China?

Guo Xiangang said that when speaking of "returning to the Asia-Pacific," he thought the United States had never left the Asia-Pacific. It only increased its relations with allies in the Asia-Pacific and used allies to counterbalance China. "But in terms of relations with allies, I think Biden may be different from Trump. Biden will increase relations with Japan, South Korea, India and other allies. During the Trump era, the United States actually paid little attention to its allies, and its conflicts with allies were prominent, such as suppressing US military expenditure. Biden will repair relations with allies in the future. And repairing relations with allies means increasing challenges to China in the field of security and other aspects. Therefore, after Biden takes office, there will definitely be major changes in China's policy."

Biden's approach to Taiwan?

Shenzhen Satellite TV said Biden's victory was a foregone conclusion, and that Taiwan authorities had been accused of betting on Trump. "In fact, we have also seen that since Trump took office, US relations with Taiwan have been constantly getting closer, including strengthening arms sales and playing the 'Taiwan card'." 

The station then asked Guo: "So according to your observation, will the US policy towards Taiwan change after Biden takes power?

Guo Xiangang said: "I think there may be some changes in this area. During Trump's presidency, the relationship between the United States and the Taiwan authorities was relatively close. During this period of time, US arms sales to Taiwan have also been continuously strengthened. The Democrats and Republicans are the same in using the Taiwan issue to check and balance China, but the methods are different.

“During the Trump era, we felt that he used all means for his purpose, such as selling large quantities of weapons to Taiwan, sending high-level officials to visit Taiwan, and raising the standard of relations with Taiwan. [But] I think Biden may be restrained in this regard. Although he has to use the Taiwan issue to check and balance China, his strength may not be as great as it was during the Trump era, because Biden is very clear that China and the United States need to strengthen cooperation on many issues.

"In addition, because the Taiwan issue affects cooperation between China and the United States, it is also detrimental to the United States. So, I think after Biden comes to power, the United States might exercise restraint on the Taiwan issue, but it will not change. Regarding Taiwan as a pawn in Sino-US relations, this attitude will not change."

Will Trump have a 'last act of madness' against China?

Shenzhen Satellite TV said that while the US general election was about to end, there was still 70 days before a transition of power to Biden. Some people worried about whether the Trump administration would have a "final madness" in its China policy. 

"What is your observation on this?"

Guo Xiangang said: “I think this analysis is still unfounded. There are several reasons. First, even if Trump does this, it will not change the situation of his leaving office. Second, Trump's main energy now is to go through judicial procedures with Biden and the Democratic Party to solve these pressing problems of so-called 'untrue vote counting' or fraud. This will involve a lot of energy. We know that litigation and legal procedures in the United States are very, very complicated, so I personally think that in the remaining dozens of days, Trump will not have more energy to do other things. Because a lawsuit now requires a lot of funds and a strong team of lawyers. This is enough for him.

“In addition, even if he wants to take some measures, some administrative departments in the United States will probably delay and slow down their work in various ways, because they are very clear about Trump’s purpose, and this is probably not good for the United States' overall benefit. So, I think that during the power transition period of more than 70 days in the future, Trump will not have a 'last madness' toward China,” Guo said.


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China US election result Biden victory explained Shenzhen TV Trade friction Taiwan Human rights Covid vaccines Guo Xiangang International Studies expert Biden policies Donald Trump 'Last madness' Power transition