Continuing the Discussion: Hillary or Donald, Who is Worse for China?

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Trump is worse for China 


The outcome of the current presidential election has the potential to drastically alter the foreign policy of the United States. While Hillary Clinton represents more of the status quo of American foreign policy, Donald Trump (henceforth referred to as ‘The Donald’) represents the alt-right of the Republican Party, and is exceedingly ignorant about the way the international system works.

The Donald, being the mildly unstable and egocentric individual he is, has the potential to grossly overreact to an incident in the South China Sea akin to that of the 2001 mid-air collision between a EP-3 and a J-8 near Hainan Island. There is little doubt that a man who responds like a child to negative tweets and ad hominem attacks focused on his manhood would not respond to such an incident with a level head.

If The Donald is able to achieve his vision of an isolationist United States, the likelihood of such an incident might decrease, but would also prove to be disastrous for the Chinese economy. The Donald would prefer to dismantle the TPP trade agreement and enact tariffs on Chinese imports in order to prevent jobs from leaving the United States. Given that the U.S. is one of China’s most important trading partners, this would prove to be much more detrimental to China than any prospective Clinton Administration trade or economic policy.

The economic fallout of a Trump presidency would significantly harm the Chinese economy because The Donald also seeks to combat China from manipulating the value of the Renminbi (RMB). Manipulating the value of the RMB has been a key component of the PRC’s efforts to maintain economic growth. While the higher standards for increasing the RMB’s portion of the basket of Special Drawing Rights currencies may affect the use of this tool. The Donald will make matters much worse.

Despite all of The Donald’s other misgivings, his stance on nuclear weapons is possibly the most controversial belief that a presidential candidate has ever held. The Donald believes the best policy in regards to the use of nuclear weapons is to be unpredictable. While China is in no way, shape or form similar to the former Soviet Union, it still possesses a developed nuclear arsenal and, like any rational nuclear power, it has a “no first use” policy. The Donald is especially irrational when it comes to this issue. There is a reason nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945, and it is the same reason why they should not be used today, no matter how small your hands are.

It is important to look at this issue from a Chinese perspective as it provides a logical way of explaining the problems with both candidates’ foreign policy platforms. The Donald’s tariffs and attempts at controlling monetary policy would not go unanswered by the Chinese government, and could lead to a destructive trade war between China and the U.S. Additionally, the transition of leadership since the founding of the PRC in 1949 has been peaceful and efficient. This electoral cycle exemplifies how flaws within the American electoral system can be seen from a Chinese context; a friend of mine recently saw a billboard in Nanjing promoting the efficacy of Chinese leadership changes after the third U.S. presidential debate, a possible jab at The Donald’s unwillingness to concede the election if he loses.


Hillary is worse for China


On the surface, Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric is more visible and memorable than Hillary Clinton’s. Trump can be seen attacking China whenever he gets the chance, evincing how he will be a tougher negotiator to a country who has purposely devalued its currency to “suck the blood out of the United States” and is “stealing” American jobs.

However, this kind of tough-talk is as of yet, only words, and nothing that China has not heard before. Beijing is aware that U.S. presidential candidates tend to take a tough stance on China during the election process, but adopt a much more cooperative position once the election is over. Indeed, statements released by China’s Foreign Ministry describe Trump’s vitriol as mere “disturbances” in U.S. domestic politics.

The Chinese seem to understand that his comments are to be taken with a grain of salt, especially during elections. Trump’s spiky rhetoric aside, a closer look at his policies suggests that the U.S. would likely be more inward-looking geopolitically under his administration; this would be advantageous to China, which would finally be free to push its own agenda in the East Asia region.

Hillary Clinton, however, has a proven track record of antagonizing China in her actions as well as her words. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s speech at the 2010 ASEAN Regional Forum prompted fury from China’s foreign minister, Yang Jie Chi, who said that her comments amounted to “an attack on China.” Clinton’s 2010 speech marked what is now known as the “pivot,” or the more diplomatically worded but ultimately synonymous “rebalancing,” of the U.S. foreign policy to shift its focus from the Middle East to East Asia. Hillary Clinton has also had a decades-long record of criticizing China on human rights abuses, and will likely continue the confrontational stance the U.S. has on the issue.

China is increasingly unabashed about its ambitions to be in control of the East Asian region. The continued U.S. presence in the Pacific region has been a perennial obstacle to China’s aspirations for regional dominance, and many Chinese believe that a Clinton presidency would certainly continue this status quo. Anything that would undermine or distract the US from meddling in its business would be welcome news.

On the topic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which excludes China), it is apparent that Clinton has only changed her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to cater to current trends. Clinton has said that she opposes the TPP “in its current form,” which implies that another form of the TPP would be acceptable in the future. Hillary Clinton’s current demeanor belies her consistent economic antagonism towards China, and her refusal to completely disavow the TPP shows that the US foreign trade policy will remain fundamentally protectionist against China if Clinton is elected.

It is clear that neither candidate offers a more peaceful and prosperous bilateral existence, but the Clinton presidency is certain to continue the trend of competitive interference on the part of the United States, which intrudes on China’s sovereignty and core interests.

Discussing the U.S. election from China’s point of view offers many interesting insights to how the cooperation between the two sides should proceed. Although it is difficult to put aside the feelings generated by such an acrimonious and ugly election, one must remember that the global economy cannot afford further antagonism from either side. Under election politics however, appearing to be friendly with “the enemy” is not an option.

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