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by Sissi Wang

Beijing is closely watching the U.S. election, but whether Trump or Biden wins, scholars predict that U.S.-China relations will remain challenging going forward, as each of the two superpowers tries to assert its influence.

Cornell politics professor Allen Carlson said, should Biden be elected, there’ll likely be more stability in the U.S.-China relationship, but not particularly a turn towards a more cooperative relationship.
“I think regardless [of who we’ll be under], we’re unlikely to go back to the friendly relationship that existed prior to Trump’s election,” Carlson said.

“We’re in a new chapter where both sides look at each other more skeptically, and the room for cooperation has narrowed.”

Regarding bi-lateral trade, under President Trump, the two countries have spent over a year going back and forth with tit-for-tat tariffs. But things won’t necessarily improve drastically for China under a Biden government, according to Ryerson Professor Ron Stagg, who says Biden will have to please Trump’s supporters if he gets elected.

“I would think that the Biden government would not be as confrontational, but they’re going to have to show the electorate – that is the people who support Donald Trump – that they are taking a strong stand.”

On Taiwan, the experts think the U.S. under a Biden government will return to Obama era policies and maintain the status quo. Carlson believes the U.S. won’t back Taiwan against China, but will continue to message to Beijing the unacceptability of more action towards Taiwan.

University of Ottawa professor Errol Mendes said Biden’s approach to China is to be friendly, but at the same time constrain China on issues like human rights.

“[Biden] has said that he wants to work with allies to develop a strategy, which I think is a very cogent strategy of collaborating with China, at the same time, constraining them on the values and human rights areas,” Mendes said.

Carlson added that the Biden government will try to re-develop their alliances that have been strained under Trump’s administration, to try to work together with them to counterbalance some of the actions that China is taking in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, while at the same time, reach out to China to find those areas where there are common interests such as climate change to offset some of the outstanding differences.