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China would much prefer Trump to Biden

Xi with Trump in 2017. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

As Xi Jinping brainstorms ways to get his country back on track, says William Pesek in Nikkei Asia, “Donald Trump probably sits high on his wish list”. Few in China enjoyed the chaos, trade tariffs and Twitter rants of the Trump presidency at the time, and fewer still enjoyed hearing him call Covid “kung flu”. But in Beijing, the feeling is that Trump’s “blunderbuss administration” rarely hit its target. President Joe Biden, on the other hand, is landing some huge economic blows. Most notably, he has successfully limited access to key technologies, and made life far harder for Chinese firms listed on US stock exchanges.

This approach is working. Weakened exports and poor retail sales in the home market make Beijing’s modest target of 5% annual growth look “increasingly unattainable”. As Biden tightens the screws, “waves of capital are already rushing away from China” – all the more reason for Xi’s inner circle to “pine for the good old days” of Trump. Unlike the current measures, the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods didn’t make the US more “innovative, productive or competitive”. And by loosening emissions standards, Trump ceded a possible advantage in electric vehicles to China – one of the few bright spots on Xi’s economic landscape. All the “turbulence and drama” was far preferable to Biden “quietly and methodically achieving the policy equivalent of letting the air out of China’s tyres”.