China’s leaders are anxiously watching the 2020 election, and while some observers may think China wants Trump out, The Atlantic’s Michael Schuman says that’s not necessarily true.
“From Beijing’s perspective, while a Democratic presidency may restore a more predictable form of American diplomacy, that may not best serve Chinese interests,” Shuman writes. “In fact, four more years of Trump—though likely packed with annoyances and disputes—might present tantalizing opportunities for China to expand its influence around East Asia and the world.”
While no one knows for sure who China prefers, there are clues as to their leanings. Former Chinese trade negotiator Long Yongtu reportedly told a Shenzhen conference last year, “We want Trump to be reelected; we would be glad to see that happen,” adding that Trump’s tweets make him “easy to read” and thus “the best choice in an opponent for negotiations.” In May, Hu Xijin, the editor of the Communist Party-run newspaper Global Times, tweeted at Trump that the Chinese “wish for your reelection because you can make America eccentric and thus hateful for the world. You help promote unity in China.”
As Schuman points out, while Yongtu and Xijin don’t necessarily speak for the Chinese government, they wouldn’t dare say such things if they didn’t think they were reflecting the opinions of Chinese leadership.
So why would China prefer a president who spouts such adversarial rhetoric towards them? Probably because they don’t feel a threat.
“For China, that’s key. Although Trump has sometimes acted on political and human-rights issues Beijing finds highly sensitive—most recently, signing legislation to impose sanctions for the Chinese government’s abusive treatment of minority Uighurs—he personally has often appeared disinterested, even dismissive,” Shuman writes. “In a new book, Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton claimed that Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping over dinner in Osaka that the detention camps Beijing was building to control the Uighur community were the right thing to do. Trump also recently admitted that he delayed sanctions on officials involved with the camps to smooth negotiations for his coveted trade deal with China.”
Read the full op-ed over at The Atlantic.