Although bilateral relations were turbulent during the Republican government, the Asian giant could bet on a new term. The reasons.
Despite the fact that Donald Trump’s first term has been a calamity for China, in the midst of a tough trade war, Beijing could welcome the re-election of the US president, in a bid for the irreversible decline of its great strategic rival.
Officially, the Chinese government has no preferences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. But some analysts trust a victory for the Republican president, to weaken their country and the West, which accelerate China’s rise to the rank of first world power.
The Chinese “expect you to be re-elected because you make the United States an eccentric country and therefore hated throughout the world,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalist daily Global Times, tweeted in May, referring to the US president. “You reinforce the unity of China,” he remarked.
Bilateral relations have cooled off enormously under Trump. In an environment of cold War, Washington closed a Chinese consulate in its territory in late July and Beijing did the same a few days later, with mutual accusations of espionage.
But Qin Gang, deputy foreign minister, maintains: “We don’t care who is in the White House. What we want is a calm and better relationship with the United States.”
Still, he reminded reporters days ago that “relations between China and the United States were also problematic with the Democrats on many issues.”
President Trump had China in the spotlight during his campaign and caused great discomfort among its leaders by talking about the “Chinese virus” to refer to the new coronavirus. On a diplomatic level, the head of the White House is “uncontrollable and incomprehensible” to Beijing, noted China specialist Philippe Le Corre, from the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States.
But “the interest of Trump’s reelection lies in the almost automatic continuation of his” America First “policy, which partly isolates Washington from its traditional allies,” he told AFP.
“Obviously, it is coherent to think that the Chinese elites are happy that the United States is weakening, as it is their great rival,” he added.
In addition, they rub their hands in the face of Western divisions.
“One of Beijing’s strategic goals is to weaken the Atlantic Alliance, which went on a drifting journey under the Trump administration,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia-Europe-Asia Studies (CREAS) in Brussels.
Since Trump’s coming to power in January 2017, his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, has tried to project the image of a responsible leader, defending free trade in Davos, to the approval of business circles, irritated by the protectionism that the American president is flying.
More recently, Xi earned international accolades by announcing that his country, the most polluting on the planet, would start reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, in contrast to the position of Washington, which denounced the Paris agreement on the weather.
And while the Republican president announced the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO), Xi Jinping promised that he would make an eventual Chinese vaccine against covid-19 “a global public good.”
But in the end, “the relationship could improve if the United States quickly controls the pandemic and if China buys more American products,” as it promised to do at the beginning of the year, predicted political scientist Zhu Zhiqun of Bucknell University in the United States.
From this perspective, “it is not inconceivable that Trump and Xi rekindle their friendship.”