Chinese leaders hope Washington will tone down conflicts over trade, technology and security if Joe Biden wins the November 3 presidential election. But any shift is likely to be in style, not substance, as frustration with Beijing increases across the American political spectrum.
US-Chinese relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid an array of conflicts over the coronavirus pandemic, technology, trade, security and spying.
Chinese leaders have been quieter about this election than during the 2016 presidential race, when they favored Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They despised Clinton for carrying out then-President Barack Obama's foreign policy, which included pressuring Beijing on human rights. Trump's public image of business success resonated with the Chinese public.
But a Biden presidency might restore a more predictable relationship after the shocks of Trump's tariff war and his outreach to India, seen as a strategic rival, and Southeast Asian countries, with which Beijing has a series of territorial disputes, Chinese analysts say.
At the least, Biden's policy "won't be as emotional and ridiculous as Trump's," said Yu Wanli, a professor of international relations at Beijing Language and Culture University.
"Democrats appear less militant, so they may take more care to prevent even limited military conflicts and pay more attention to crisis management communication with China," said Shi Yinhong of Renmin University in Beijing, one of the country's most prominent scholars of international relations.
U.S. intelligence officials believe Chinese leaders don't want Trump re-elected, according to a statement by William Evanina, the top counterintelligence official. It didn't directly accuse China of trying to interfere in the election or to support Biden.
In their debates, the presidential and vice presidential candidates have accused each other of being ineffective or not tough enough on China. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence accused Biden of giving China a free ride as Obama's vice president. Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, labeled Trump's trade war a failure.