US election: Experts say Beijing ready to 'coexist' with the US, no matter who wins

A photo taken on Dec 1, 2018, shows US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting in Buenos Aires.
A photo taken on Dec 1, 2018, shows US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting in Buenos Aires.PHOTO: AFP

Whoever wins the US presidential election next week, what is certain is that the relationship between Beijing and Washington has irrevocably changed and the hawkish stance towards China is likely to continue, analysts say.

Amid a trade war that never quite reached a detente and spiralling diplomatic relations also lie the conundrums of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

For the Chinese leadership, a win for either President Donald Trump or Mr Joe Biden will each bring its own set of challenges, but it would end the current China bashing that has dominated American politics, said Mr Wang Huiyao, an adviser to China's Cabinet and founder of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing think-tank.

"Trump no longer has an election to win so this rhetoric against China, that tends to pop up around election season, will stop," he said. "That is the time we would finally be able to come together at the table and talk again."

An important area would be discussions of phases two and three of a comprehensive trade deal between the United States and China.

Yet, these same attacks helped solidify President Xi Jinping's position within China, drawing out a brand of nationalism sparked by a nation feeling it was under blight.

Mr Trump's form of Twitter diplomacy also gave rise to "wolf warrior" diplomats in China, a more assertive and public form of conducting foreign policy.

There is also a sense in Beijing that Mr Biden would bring more to the table, offering cooperation in areas such as climate change and global public health.

"There is a worldwide public health emergency and we want to cooperate in areas like vaccine development, but at the moment, it appears to be more of a competition," Mr Wang said.

"There's probably going to be more engagement and dialogue (under Biden) but, of course, the Democrats will push China on issues like human rights."

The Trump administration has been outspoken about supporting democracy in Hong Kong and has continued to engage with Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province to be reunified by force if necessary.

"Beijing will likely step up its sabre-rattling following the election, but, in the event of a Biden victory, aim to avoid moves that would set back its engagement with the new administration," wrote political consultancy Eurasia Group in a research note.

No matter who wins, the "structure of conflict" is likely to remain for the next decade or two, Mr Wang said. "But decoupling is impossible because we can't live without the other, so China is ready to find a new way to coexist."