US President Donald Trump has been reaching into his 2016 playbook to target China during his re-election campaign, playing up his administration’s combative approach to Beijing and portraying his opponent Joe Biden as “soft” on China.
At a rally last week in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Trump honed in on this message: “This election is a simple choice – if Biden wins, China wins, all these other countries win, we get ripped off by everybody. If we win, you win, Pennsylvania wins, and America wins, very simple.
”Meanwhile, Biden slammed Trump’s “America first” policies for alienating the United States’ allies, describing the phase one trade deal with China as an “unmitigated disaster” and vowing to “build a united front of friends and partners to challenge China’s abusive behaviour”.
Their clash over China comes amid a growing consensus that the US needs a tougher stance against Beijing, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. It also comes a time when many perceive the inability to liberalise China despite decades of engagement as a failure. The two men have built up foreign policy teams that reflect this debate.