Joe Biden may bring respite to China-US ‘Cold War’, but rivalry to continue: Chinese observers

By: |
November 8, 2020 8:33 PM

The victory of Joe Biden in the US presidential election may provide a respite to China from President Donald Trump's declaration of the 'Cold War' and offer a limited chance to reset the turbulent ties

Biden's China policy won't simply slip back into the Obama era approach of 2016 as during the past four years, China-US relations and the global landscape have changed significantly, it said.

The victory of Joe Biden in the US presidential election may provide a respite to China from President Donald Trump’s declaration of the ‘Cold War’ and offer a limited chance to reset the turbulent ties even as high-intensity rivalry is expected to continue, Chinese observers said on Sunday. Trump’s four years in power is the worst phase in China-US relations as the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), headed by President Xi Jinping, struggled to deal with what Chinese officials said is the most elusive and unpredictable American leader ever since the former US president Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972, establishing ties for the first time with the Communist nation.

Trump pushed aggressively on all aspects of the US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging Chinese military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan and branding coronavirus as ‘China virus’ after it emerged from Wuhan in December last year. The Biden tenure could usher in a “buffering period” for already-tense China-US relations, and offer an opportunity for breakthrough in resuming high-level communication and rebuilding mutual strategic trust between the two countries, a report in the state-run Global Times said.

Deteriorating relations between China and the US have entered a vicious circle, leading to damaged strategic mutual trust, suspended high-level communication and little concrete cooperation, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Centre for US Studies at Fudan University, told the daily. Under Biden, it might now be expected that China and the US will resume pragmatic cooperation on vaccines, the anti-epidemic fight and climate change, Xin said.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said that Biden will usher in a “buffering period” for worsening China-US relations. Biden will be more moderate and mature on handling foreign affairs, Jin said.

Much has been written in the overseas media that no matter who wins the White House, the next US president is most likely to take a “tough” stand on the China policy, Wang Xiangwei, a columnist of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, said.

That is certainly true, but from Beijing’s perspective, a Biden presidency is more likely to put a floor under the current free-fall in relations, judging by his recent remarks on China and those of his foreign policy advisers, he said in his column on Sunday.

Instead of the Trump administration’s increasingly bare-knuckled and full-throttled approach to demonising the Chinese leadership and ramping up the ideological confrontation as well as constricting China’s economic progress, a Biden presidency could lead to a new normal in relations characterised by intensifying confrontation and competition on issues like technology and human rights but increased cooperation on global issues including climate change, he said.

“If that is the case, Biden will probably take an overall harder line against China but avoid pushing the two countries to a new Cold War,” Wang said, referring to Biden’s comment in an interview that he sees Russia as a bigger threat to the US and China as a “serious competitor.”

However, the pending change in the US leadership won’t change the overall direction of Washington’s China policy, observers said. Regardless of who resides in the White House, the US will to some extent maintain its current approach towards China, a report in the Global Times said.

Biden’s China policy won’t simply slip back into the Obama era approach of 2016 as during the past four years, China-US relations and the global landscape have changed significantly, it said.

“We should not put too much expectation on Biden because to contain and confront China is a strategic consensus between the two major parties of the US,” Jin added.

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