Trump, Biden to play 'China card' in debate

By Yang Sheng Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/29 21:18:40 Last Updated: 2020/9/29 23:06:58

Performance to ‘hardly affect’ election outcome

Photo: Xinhua

The first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be held on Tuesday night local time, and due to recent tensions between China and the US, the event has also attracted the attention of the Chinese public and social media network. Chinese experts said the candidates will keep playing the "China card" to attack each other.

On social media platform Sina Weibo, the "2020 US presidential election" is one of the hottest international news topics, which received more than 21.38 million views as of late Tuesday, and multiple Chinese media outlets also reported on what the two candidates are going to say in the first debate.

The US presidential debate is not an occasion for observers to learn what policies the candidates would make after they get elected, but an opportunity for the candidates to attack, accuse and stigmatize each other. Their debate performance would be much more important than their narratives about policies, analysts said. 

The words will not reflect their policies, and Chinese observers should focus on the reaction of US voters to the candidates' stance on China and other relevant topics, Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The moderator of the first debate, Chris Wallace of Fox News, released a list of six general subject areas. They are: the Trump and Biden records; the Supreme Court; COVID-19; the Economy; Race and Violence in our Cities; the Integrity of the Election. Of course, he says they're subject to change based on news developments, and won't necessarily come in this order.

China is likely to be mentioned in topics like the economy and COVID-19, and, not surprisingly, Trump will be consistent with last week's speech at the UN General Assembly, to blame China on almost all problems that the US is suffering, like economic recession and the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese analysts said.

But Biden would jump out from the blame game and try to make US voters learn that it was the Trump administration which should be held accountable for the serious epidemic, rising confirmed cases and deaths, as well as poor economic performance, Lü said, adding that at least on this topic, Biden would be more reasonable and honest. 

Trump will have to account for his failed response to the coronavirus pandemic in the debate with Biden, CNN reported on Tuesday.

It quoted US experts as saying Trump's undermining of public health expert advice on mask wearing, refusal to level with Americans about the dangers early on, and "efforts to prioritize politically helpful economic openings over public health in one of the world's worst responses to COVID-19 have made the tragedy worse than it needed to be."

However, this doesn't mean Biden would be more friendly to China, and Biden could also play the China card to attack Trump on other topics, such as the South China Sea issue and the phase one trade deal, Lü said.

"Biden might say Trump failed to stop China's actions in the South China Sea, like island constructions, or he could also say Trump has been fooled by China when he signed the phase one deal," as some Trump critics said "China didn't fulfill the deal to buy enough US products," Lü said, noting that the two candidates will use the China card to accuse each other, and will try to play tough.

Diao Daming, a US politics expert and associate professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday that normally in the first debate, the performance of the candidates would be key, and US media will focus on Biden's performance, since the US public, even some Democrats, see Biden has disadvantage on debate compared with Trump.

"If Biden makes no huge mistakes, then the debate would hardly impact the election result," Diao noted.

Apart from the economy and COVID-19, China could also be mentioned in the records of the two candidates, because Trump is likely to attack Biden on his son's business in China, Lü said. 

The debate won't be based on policies, but on stigmatization. And some recent big news, like the New York Times' bombshell report on Trump paying just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, are the weapons that the two sides are prepared to use to attack each other, Diao said, adding that "the two candidates need to make the opponent look worse."

The Trump camp is also preparing. Two Republican-led Senate committees issued a politically charged report last week alleging that the work Biden's son did in Ukraine was a conflict of interest for the Obama administration at a time when Biden was engaged in the Ukraine policy as vice president, AP reported on Thursday.

Lü said the Trump scandal on the tax records would be a good weapon for Biden to use, but on other topics, Trump would go on the offensive. Through the debate, "US voters are not looking who is wiser or greater, but try to find who can, at least, be more decent, and find the lesser of two evils."

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