Expectations in Asia for a Biden Administration's Impact on U.S. China Policy

Asia split over which U.S. Presidential candidate would be best . . .

Recent polls across Asia show public opinion in most jurisdictions – except for Taiwan and Vietnam – is against the re-election of Donald Trump. Most populations in Asia express a significant preference for Joe Biden to win the U.S. election, although opinion in Hong Kong and the Philippines is less anti-Trump than elsewhere. The hardline taken by the U.S. on China under Trump does seem to have won Trump some support in the region, for example, among countries threatened by China in the South China Sea. Despite the split in Asia over which president would be best for the region, the big question remains: Will there be a substantial change under a Biden Administration in U.S. policy toward Asia, particularly regarding China?

Would Joe Biden be soft on China?

Throughout the election campaign, Donald Trump tried to paint Joe Biden as a China puppet and even falsely insinuated that his family got rich through nefarious business dealings with China. But the bipartisan support in the U.S. for a tougher line on China makes it unlikely that a Biden Administration would soften American policy on China. What remains to be seen is whether Biden would remove the Trump-imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, which Biden called “self-defeating,” and if he would champion more forceful action regarding the persecution of the Muslim Uighur populations in China’s Xinjiang province. And, like Trump, Biden has also pledged strong support for Taiwan, a position favoured by much of the U.S. population.

A mix of competition and collaboration expected with China . . .

While it is hard to imagine a reset on U.S. policy on China, especially over trade practices seen as detrimental to U.S. business, experts have argued that a Biden Administration would nonetheless seek to collaborate with China on some key global issues, such as climate change. Biden clearly stated that if elected, he would swiftly rejoin the Paris Agreement, and experts have indicated that the U.S. under his administration could try to engage China on this issue, perhaps even hosting a bilateral summit on the environment.