China weighs in on potential 2024 Biden-Trump rematch: Two ‘bowls of poison’


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China is closely watching the 2024 presidential race and could see a potential rematch between Republican frontrunner former President Trump and President Biden as having to choose from “two bowls of poison,” an official said.

Neither candidate is particularly appealing to Beijing despite their respective foreign policy differences. Biden has looked for areas of cooperation with China, but Beijing has expressed concern over his efforts to unite Indo-Pacific allies against China and comments he has made about sending troops to Taiwan.

Conversely, Trump favors an isolationist approach to foreign policy and was tough on China economically. He encouraged U.S. businesses to remain in America, in exchange for tax, rather than allow them to relocate to China, where the cost to operate is significantly cheaper. He also offered tough, and sometimes unpredictable, rhetoric on China.  

“For China, no matter who won the U.S. presidential election, they would be two ‘bowls of poison,’” said Zhao Minghao, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai.

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Donald Trump, Joe Biden split

Beijing has said neither former President Trump nor President Biden are particularly appealing to  their own interests, despite their respective foreign policy differences. ( Chip Somodevilla, Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

China’s woes in the presidential election also include the campaign itself, where the candidates are likely to talk tough on China.

Trump, who might be more hesitant to defend Taiwan, has repeatedly blamed China for the COVID-19 outbreak that tarnished the end of his term. It may have also contributed to costing him his 2020 re-election, as voters preferred Biden’s approach to handling the pandemic.

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During Trump’s term as president, he angered China when he took a congratulatory call on his 2016 election victory from the president of Taiwan and when he imposed tariffs on Chinese imports in 2018. He also repeatedly blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing rebukes from Beijing.

Donald Trump in the Oval Office

Former President Trump enjoyed highs and lows in his relationship with China during his time in the Oval Office. (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Despite the apparent frustrations from Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited then-President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in April 2017. Six months later, he hosted Trump in Beijing for a dinner at the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace.

Once in office, Biden kept his predecessor’s China trade policy, keeping the tariffs in place and limiting access by Chinese companies to advanced technologies by sanctioning Chinese officials over human rights violations. He also expanded restrictions on China-bound U.S. money.

Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called China the “most serious long-term challenge to the international order” in 2022. In early 2023, tensions spiked again when the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon.

Joe Biden

President Biden has attempted to restore diplomatic communications with Beijing but has frustrated them with his comments about Taiwan. (Kent Nishimura for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Whoever ultimately wins the White House could have enormous consequences for the U.S.-China relationship as well as the rest of the Indo-Pacific region.

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“No matter who takes office, it will not change the overall direction of America’s strategic competition with China,” predicted Sun Chenghao, a fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University. “China doesn’t have any preference for who will win the presidential election because China has experience dealing with either of them for four years.”

To get to the 2024 general election, Trump still has to win the Republican nomination, where he is currently in a contest with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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