Why China likely wants Trump to lose the election
China officially denied President Trump’s assertion on Wednesday that it wants Joe Biden to defeat him in November. But read between the lines, and a very different picture emerges.
Take what the highly influential editor of China’s state-controlled Global Times newspaper is saying. Hu Xijin is a mouthpiece, adviser, and sounding board for the regime. He’s also a Xi Jinping loyalist who knows when to salute and when to shut up. So when Hu puts his own name to an article, he’s speaking personally and politically for Beijing. That makes this Hu quote from Thursday especially interesting.
“Only by making Americans hate China can [the Trump administration] make sure that the public might overlook the fact that Trump’s team is stained with the blood of Americans.” Hu continues, “If Trump is man enough, he should prioritize protecting American lives over reelection, and be the political Batman when the U.S. is in crisis.”
Yes, you might think Chinese propagandists would avoid bat jokes. Still, Hu’s language is striking in its hostility. Not only is Hu accusing Trump of voluntary manslaughter, he’s questioning Trump’s manhood. This line of attack, Beijing is well aware, is not something that this particular American president finds very amusing. The choice of that attack thus reflects just how engraged Xi’s regime now is with Trump. This rage reflects Trump’s blaming of Beijing for allowing the coronavirus to become a pandemic, and Washington’s growing success in rallying allies against China’s various deceptions.
Yet there are other reasons to think that China would prefer a Biden presidency to a second Trump term in office. Trump has thrown a curve ball against the previously abiding China consensus in Washington. His two significant bad moves? Falling for Chinese red carpets to believe that Xi is his friend, and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But beyond that, Trump has done a pretty good job at chomping down on China’s more malevolent ambitions.
Trump played China at its own trade brinkmanship game and, against expectations, has won small but significant victories. Trump has escalated the U.S. Military’s contest – at sea and on land – of China’s regional imperialism, and has authorized more aggressive intelligence operations against China. This does not sit well in Beijing, which was quite happy with the Obama administration that allowed them to conquer much of the South China Sea without firing a shot. Or at least very few shots, and only against regional fishing boats.
Xi was quite happy, also, with an Obama administration which allowed China to keep stealing U.S. intellectual property without any significant cyber-retaliation. That’s now changed. As has China’s global access to 5G networks. Neither was Beijing unhappy when Washington claimed victory by getting Xi Jinping to promise to attempt to cap his carbon emissions by 2030. (Shockingly, Xi was lying.)
In turn, considering that Biden was a very senior figure in the administration that allowed all these China wins, you can see why China might just prefer his presidency to the incumbent. Biden might claim he’ll be tougher in 2021, but the simple fact is that what China currently sees from Trump, it really doesn’t like.