5th November 2020 – (Hong Kong) The counting of votes for the U.S. presidential election is coming to an end, and whoever that takes over the White House will have a profound impact on the world. The two presidential candidates’ policies towards China are in fact quite similar, and may not take the welfare of Hong Kong into consideration.

According to BBC, Chinese leaders may have a growing feeling that US democracy has passed its sell-by-date but if they had to express a choice, might they too be glad to see the back of Donald Trump? That’s certainly the assessment of the US intelligence community that has concluded that Mr Trump’s unpredictability, and his harsh criticisms of Beijing, mean the Communist Party leadership would prefer him to lose. But Professor Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of International Relations at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, disagrees. “If you ask me about where China’s interests lie,” he says, “the preference would be for Trump rather than Biden”. “Not because Trump will do less damage to China’s interests than Biden, but because he definitely will damage the US more than Biden.” It is a sign of just how far things have deteriorated from the idea of closer economic ties for mutual benefit. According to his former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, Mr Trump once told Xi Jinping that he approved of his draconian crackdown on the Uighurs, although the president has denied the claim.

Joe Biden may well be promising to push it on human rights and – in a sign of just how far the consensus has now shifted in Washington – calling Xi Jinping “a thug”. But he may take a softer line on tariffs and he’d be far more willing to look for co-operation on issues like climate change, which China could potentially leverage and use to its advantage. China’s rulers, though, aren’t thinking in terms of electoral cycles, they’re contemplating the end of an epoch.

According to NBC news, as a senator and vice president, Joe Biden, like politicians from both parties and presidents dating to Ronald Reagan embraced the idea that the United States could coax China into acting as a “responsible stakeholder.” As the Democratic presidential nominee, Biden now calls Chinese President Xi Jinping a “thug.” Until recently, the consensus in Washington held that more trade and dialogue with Beijing would help defuse tensions and eventually bring China into the liberal world order shaped by America. The view from both sides of the aisle has dramatically shifted, and Biden’s evolution reflects that change.

In his bid for the White House, Biden has vowed to stand up to Beijing and accused his opponent, President Donald Trump, of getting “played” by the regime. Trump has painted Biden as “soft” on China and said that as vice president, Biden was part of an administration that failed to hold Beijing accountable. When he was asked by the media before attending the North Carolina election campaign at the end of September, he reiterated that he was “firm and unwavering” in his stance on China.

Obviously, whoever that is elected will have the same policy toward China. As for the Hong Kong issue, Biden’s stance is not “weaker” but it’s even clearer than Trump. He once said that the legislative process of the “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law” involves “black box operations.” If elected, he will prohibit U.S. companies from assisting China in national surveillance. If Beijing harms the rights of U.S. citizens, companies, and institutions, he will quickly impose economic sanctions.

Regardless of the U.S Presidential election outcome, the US policy toward China is bound to become tougher, but the form and methods may be different. If Trump is re-elected, there will be uncertainty about his China policy, because as a businessman, he will compromise slightly due to U.S.business interests, coupled with the COVID-19 epidemic and continued economic recession, he must first focus on fighting the epidemic and economic recovery, and thus relax its suppression of China.

On the other hand, because the Democratic Party places more emphasis on democracy, human rights, freedom and climate change, it certainly needs to communicate and cooperate with China on certain issues, but it will also deal with China more systematically, such as using multilateralism to win over allies and using trade chains to eliminate China. For the United States, Hong Kong has become a bargaining chip in the Sino-US trade war and the “new cold war”. It is believed China will not easily make concessions and compromises. Therefore, Hong Kong will still face repression and sanctions.

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