China Sees Trump, Biden As ‘Bowls of Poison’ Says Expert

The prospect of a 2024 rematch in the US presidential election between former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate, and the current President Joe Biden, garners considerable scrutiny from China. Nonetheless, despite their contrasting strategies on foreign policy, neither contender is particularly favored by Beijing.

President Biden has indicated an openness to finding common ground with China. Yet, his initiatives to rally Indo-Pacific allies against Beijing, coupled with his remarks on the possibility of deploying troops to Taiwan, have sparked unease in Beijing. China remains vigilant regarding any developments that could pose a risk to its regional ambitions.

On the other hand, Trump has taken a more isolationist approach to foreign policy and has been tough on China economically. He incentivized US businesses to remain in America rather than relocate to China, which has significantly lower operational costs. Trump’s harsh and occasionally unpredictable rhetoric on China has also been a point of contention in US-China relations.

Zhao Minghao, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, aptly described China’s perception of the US presidential race as having to choose between “two bowls of poison.” Regardless of the outcome, China sees potential challenges and conflicts with either candidate.

Trump’s previous actions during his presidency further complicate China’s view of him. His congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan and his imposition of tariffs on Chinese imports angered Beijing. Trump’s repeated blame on China for the COVID-19 pandemic also strained relations between the two countries.

After Biden’s election, his administration maintained Trump’s trade policy with China, retaining tariffs and imposing restrictions on Chinese companies’ access to advanced technologies. His administration also expanded limitations on US investments in China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has labeled China the “most serious long-term challenge to the international order.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping had previously engaged with Trump, visiting Mar-a-Lago in Florida and hosting him in Beijing. However, the future of US-China relations remains uncertain as the geopolitical landscape continues to evolve.

Whoever emerges victorious in the 2024 presidential race will undoubtedly significantly impact the US-China relationship and the broader Indo-Pacific region. China recognizes that the strategic competition with the United States will persist, regardless of the occupant of the White House.

Sun Chenghao, a fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, believes that China has no clear preference for either candidate, as the nation has experience dealing with them over the past four years.