Why Beijing may want to keep Trump in the White House

Jonathan Bartlett illustration for Foreign Policy

Donald Trump has frustrated and enraged China during a tumultuous first term, but Beijing may welcome his re-election as it scans the horizon for the decline of its superpower rival. Under his ‘America First’ banner, Trump has portrayed China as the greatest threat to the United States and global democracy.

He has launched a massive trade war that has cost China billions of dollars. But another Trump triumph in November may have its advantages for China as President Xi Jinping seeks to cement his nation’s rise as a global superpower.

China’s leadership could be handed “the opportunity to boost its global standing as a champion for globalisation, multilateralism, and international cooperation,” said Zhu Zhiqun, professor of political and international relations, Bucknell University.

Meanwhile, China on the path to world supremacy

Trump has pulled America from a sprawling Asia-Pacific commercial deal and climate agreements, imposed billions of dollars of tariffs on Chinese goods, and withdrawn the US from the World Health Organization at the height of a global pandemic.

Where the US has retreated, Xi has stepped forward.

He has presented his country as the champion of free trade and a leader in the fight against climate change, as well as vowed to share any potential Covid-19 vaccine with poorer nations.

A second Trump term could give China more time to rise as a great power on the world stage,” Zhu added.

“Biden is likely to be tougher than Trump on human rights issues in Xinjiang and Tibet,” said Zhu, of Bucknell University.

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