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William Pesek: US election shaping up as contest between which candidate hates China more

News Agencies | Updated on: 18 July 2020, 11:33 IST
US election shaping up as contest between which candidate hates China more

As relations between Washington and Beijing worsen over a range of issues, the upcoming US election is shaping up as a contest between which candidate hates China more, suggests William Pesek.

The relations between US and China have been on a downward spiral over issues ranging from coronavirus pandemic to Hong Kong to human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

In an article in Nikkei Asian Review, Pesek said: "The U.S. election is shaping up as a contest between which candidate hates China more: President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden?"

For now, Pesek noted, the advantage is Trump's, who on Tuesday ended Hong Kong's special status with the U.S., which allowed the city direct access to key U.S. sectors like technology and defense. "He also signed legislation requiring sanctions against Chinese officials involved in Beijing's crackdown in the former British colony and the banks they deal with."

US President Donald Trump had on Tuesday signed legislation and executive order authorising sanctions against China for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.

"Today, I signed legislation and an Executive Order to hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong," Trump had said.

China's move to impose national security law in Hong Kong has drawn fierce criticism, with many saying it is aimed at crushing dissent in the erstwhile British colony which saw massive pro-democracy protests last year.

"Trump's actions demonstrate the extent to which November 3 will be a race to the bottom to see who can be harsher toward China. Your move, Joe," the article read.

Pesek said the Central question for this election should be who has the best plan to keep the U.S. on top of the great power struggle. Americans trying to decide might consider why China's President Xi Jinping seems to fear Biden more than another four years of Trump, he stated.

While noting that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "loathes the trade war, the Twitter tantrums and Trump's racist remarks about the coronavirus' origins", Pesek said the "more Trump damages America's global standing, the closer China is to realizing its hegemonic aspirations."

"In sharp contrast, a Biden presidency promises a return to the Democratic Party's traditional approach toward Beijing. That means using a multilateral approach that puts human rights, environmental concerns and government censorship at the front end of trade talks, not as retaliatory cudgels to bash China," he said.

China has been trying to bully its smaller neighbours with its muscle power. Its territorial claims have aggravated tensions in the region.

Pesek, however, also cautioned that Biden must not overplay his hand. "He is not an economic guru. Foreign policy is his comfort zone and he will need some semblance of a relationship for his approach to work," he said.

He stated that Biden, who has earlier served as Vice-President, would reengage the world, would keep US in WHO, reenter Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

"He would reach out to the remaining 11 TPP nations to revive a deal China hoped would stay dead. Odds are, Biden would lobby Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, New Delhi, Seoul and others to join the pact," he said.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump administration, which has been critical of UN health body over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic has formally withdrawn US from the WHO.

Yet, Pesek said, Biden risks repeating Trump's mistake of losing sight of the bigger picture when it comes to dealing with an "ascendant" China.

"Trump's efforts to color his opponent as soft on China clearly pushed the Biden campaign's efforts to out China-bash Trump," he said, while adding that China "deserves" it too.

Referring to Xi's "chilling clampdown" in Hong Kong, exploits in South China Sea, appalling treatment of Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang and clampdown on media, Pesek said these actions have won Beijing little goodwill.

"A Group of Seven nation like the U.S. should help to ensure the world's second-biggest economy plays by the rules," said Pesek.

He also warned that taking on China alone will not build American economic muscle nor will it suddenly restore the manufacturing sector to its 1980s heyday or end the struggle to compete with Asia's low wages. "It will not magically improve crumbling infrastructure nor reduce inequality or improve the education system," he said.

"So will building a more equitable and collaborative trade relationship with China. Trump's approach has been starting economic food fights. A President Biden will have to work with Xi, not just hurl platitudes," added Pesek.


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First published: 18 July 2020, 11:33 IST