Trump uses China card in re-election bid

By Chen Qingqing and Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/19 23:53:40

China should prepare against US political consensus: expert

US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida to officially launch his 2020 campaign on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

US President Donald Trump officially kicked off his 2020 election campaign on Tuesday in Florida. While Trump has been turning to a familiar playbook by touting the country's strong economic performance, he will likely soften his trade and economic policies amid the trade war, which are hurting his core supporters, analysts said. 

At Tuesday's rally, Trump said the US continues to thrive and prosper to new heights, claiming that the country is enjoying probably the greatest economy in US history and creating millions of new jobs, CNN reported on Wednesday. 

However, his soaring rhetoric has not always been convincing, especially after his trade policies with more tariffs cast a shadow over the growth outlook, drawing complaints from businesses, trade groups and industry representatives. 

"Many of Trump's core supporters in 2016 were farmers and workers, but farmers have become the largest victims amid the escalating trade war between the US and China," Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times. "It depends on how long they can endure losses before they consider Trump alternatives in 2020."

While rural Americans were some of Trump's biggest supporters, they are losing patience with a yearlong trade war that the Trump administration has reached an impasse without closing a deal with China. However, Trump seemed to have noticed rising disappointment among his supporters. To gain their support, Trump came up with a $12 billion bailout program for farmers, and outlined another plan with an additional $15 billion, US news site reported in May 17. 

Although Trump continues to enjoy strong GOP support ahead of 2020, the latest poll suggests that his major Democratic rivals - former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders - are beating him in head-to-head matchups in Florida, media reported. 

Biden leads Trump among Florida voters, 50 percent to 41 percent, and Trump trails Sanders by 6 percentage points, US political news site Politico said on Tuesday. 

Besides Florida, more voters are turning against Trump in other battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

Chinese analysts noted that facing economic downward pressure and declining public support, Trump may adjust his policy of extreme repression and make some compromises to win the election.

During the phone call with Trump on Tuesday at request, Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a meeting later this month. Shen Dingli, professor of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies, said this sent a possible signal of a breakthrough in the stalled trade talks. 

"China and the US may make concessions to achieve a balance and it is very likely that the two will reach an agreement before October," Shen said.

Echoing Shen, Liu said "Trump is likely to be more cautious on his trade and economic policies by softening his rhetoric and tariff stance that will disappoint more voters." 

Farmers are not the only ones turning their backs on Trump. Major conglomerates such as Walmart and Costco warned that imposing more tariffs on Chinese goods will hamper business growth, which will eventually spook the American economy and damage his "Make America Great Again" theme in his re-election bid.

Political correctness 

It is still too early to predict who will be the more promising candidate, but the anti-China narrative has already taken hold in the US, and China needs to have a long-term strategy for that, analysts said. 

Democrats and Republicans are coming together rather than apart on China-related issues, and this has become a new consensus in today's American society, Liu noted. 

"No matter who will lead in the polls, US-China relations have already entered an adjustment phase," he said. 

Sanders took an apparent shot at Biden over comments he made downplaying the economic threat China poses, which aligns with those of Trump, CNBC reported in May. 

A bipartisan consensus between Democrats and Republicans on the China policy of the US has been hard to achieve, but the two parties found common ground, David Shambaugh, a George Washington University professor, wrote in an article on open-platform website China-US Focus in September 2018. 

The Trump administration's tough policies on China across a wide range of issues would not be possible without a deep underlying and bipartisan consensus for it in American politics, he said. 

Shen predicted that if Trump gets re-elected, China-US relations will enter a period of stability, and if the US tries to provoke trouble, China will have more bargaining chips based on the achievements of economic reforms - for example, a breakthrough in Huawei chipsets. 

If Trump loses, any new US president might not be as aggressive as Trump on China. "They are likely to take maturer strategies and may balance better between objective and approach," Shen said.

In terms of long-term preparation, China should continue to fulfill the promises of the WTO and push forward reform and opening-up, analysts said. 

China should be more open by reducing tariffs and allowing more foreign companies access to Chinese market. This may be a better way to break the consensus of the Democrats and Republicans against China, Shen said. 

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

blog comments powered by Disqus