Will Biden improve China ties frayed by predecessor?
Published: Nov 23, 2020 09:50 PM

The White House Photo: Xinhua

It seems highly likely that sitting US President Donald Trump will move to inflame trade tensions with China during his final months in office, no matter whose interests he is bent on hurting.

The Trump administration is closed to declare a list of 89 Chinese aerospace companies it alleges having ties to the military, will be restricted from buying a range of US goods and technology, according to a Reuters report on Monday.

If the report is genuine, then it means the incumbent US president may be determined to dial up attacks on China over trade in an attempt to make trouble for the incoming Joe Biden administration.

To a certain extent, the move in question highlights the madness of the Trump administration in building a "political legacy," which has apparently disregarded the consequences and damages the bilateral ties would bear. 

For starters, the attempt to abuse state power to suppress Chinese companies would seriously violate principles of free market competition and international economic and trade rules, disrupting the normal trade and investment cooperation between China and the US. Moreover, such an attack list, if approved by the administration, could not only hurt the interests of Chinese companies, but also the interests of many US companies that supply products to China.

In the US, there seems to be a strange custom of presidential candidates bashing China during their campaigns, and then once in office, toning down their rhetoric in order to maximize economic and trade interests with China. 

But if any of the Trump administration' extreme measures, including the above list, come into effect during the remaining days of his presidency, they would nevertheless represent an act by the US government. After Trump steps down, the trade restrictions are not to be reversed shortly, and it would reduce any remaining wiggle-room Joe Biden has to keep bilateral relations on an even keel.

For the president-elect, handling US' relationship with China may be one of the biggest foreign-policy challenges. But Trump's "political legacy" may put him at a much bigger disadvantage. 

While observers generally believe that Biden will adopt an approach different from Trump's to contain China's economic rise on the basis of avoiding a Cold War and decoupling, it remains to be seen how he would deal with the existing decoupling policies. 

Even though the Trump administration's push for decoupling from China is undoubtedly harmful to American businesses, it may not be an easy task to dismantle them. But retaining the measures means that US-China trade and economic cooperation will wither in uncertainty, which will be detrimental to market confidence in the long run.

How to handle the legacy of Trump's China policy will therefore be a major test for the next US administration. Since closer cooperation remains the best path to mutual economic success, we hope that President Biden can bring bilateral relations back on track by properly handling what he will inherit.
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