Resetting U.S.-Chinese Relations Won’t Be Easy
Never before has Beijing paid such close attention to the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Chinese leaders recognize that competition will define U.S.-Chinese relations no matter who occupies the White House. But they also believe that former Vice President Joe Biden’s triumph over President Donald Trump provides an opportunity to halt—or at the very least slow—the two countries’ alarming march to confrontation.
Relations have deteriorated at an astonishing rate during Trump’s presidency. The trade war has been the most conspicuous example of friction, but larger strategic tensions have also heightened the risk of conflict. The Trump administration’s barrage of blame, overtly racist remarks, policies aimed at decoupling, and rhetoric advocating regime change has jolted many officials in the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Unsurprisingly, the prevailing mood on Chinese social media in the wake of the U.S. election is one of relief and optimism, although views of Trump among the general public are by no means uniform. A popular Internet meme captured the public’s enthusiasm for a Biden presidency, rechristening Beijing’s Forbidden City as the “For-Biden City.”