Countries around the world are wishing US President-elect Joe Biden, but if you notice, China, which had rooted desperately for Biden has fallen silent. Beijing hasn’t congratulated Biden. No official statement has been issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, nor has Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US, wished Biden. Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda mouthpiece Global Times too is not celebrating Trump’s apparent defeat and is only writing nuanced stories about Biden.
It seems the fear of Trump is haunting China. The paper dragon understands that Trump is still going to stay in the White House till January 20, 2021. And now Trump has nothing to lose. He is even more powerful than he was before, and probably even angrier about China. In the next two months, Trump is likely to tie his successor’s hands over China by taking drastic, irreversible decisions.
Trump can be laying traps for Biden. According to an Indian news agency ANI, experts and former officials say they fear a growing risk of President Trump making disruptive moves to double down on priorities and tie his successor’s hands in final months of his Presidency.
Jeff Moon, principal at China Moon Strategies and former National Security Council official said, “Trump has promised to punish China for Covid-19, so the question is, what does that mean.”
In fact, Trump has already made a move to further deteriorate US-China ties. The US government recently removed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement from its list of terror organisations, after nearly two decades. This is significant, as the organisation is active in China-occupied Xinjiang.
Beijing often tries to justify its concentration camps in Xinjiang on the pretext of cracking down on terror. But by removing the East Turkestan Islamic Movement from the US list of terror organisations, Trump has taken away China’s excuse to run concentration camps in Xinjiang. Even the Biden administration will not be able to reverse such a decision on the contentious issue of Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Bonnie Glaser, Director of Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Project also feels that Trump administration could make decisions that would be hard to reverse for Biden. SCMP quoted him as saying, “They’re trying to nail down as many policies as they can that will be hard to reverse, whether it’s on China or Iran or elsewhere.”
Trump has many other options including imposing sanctions upon Chinese state-run companies, further restrictions on “dual-use” civilian-military exports, and of course, banning more Chinese apps. At a geostrategic level, the Trump administration can escalate matters in the South China Sea and perhaps even expand cooperation with Taiwan in order to put Biden in a fix when he comes at the helm of affairs in the White House.
James Green, a Georgetown University senior fellow and former trade negotiator based in the US embassy in Beijing said, “I think there is a good chance for mischief across a range of US polices leading up to the inauguration”.
Green added, “In terms of cooperative handover procedures, I worry about that. It seems to me one of those norms that the Trump administration has no interest in upholding.”
So, there is every possibility of Trump leaving office with a bang. And the focus of his grand exit would definitely be China. This is why the Chinese Communist Party is not rejoicing Trump’s apparent defeat. It knows that Trump has nothing to lose and by rejoicing his defeat, the paper dragon will only invite more and more trouble which would ultimately end up doing more harm than good to the Middle Kingdom.