The internal Democratic Party race which ultimately established who the final Democrat candidate for the 2020 presidential elections will be (Joe Biden) got us thinking about, of course, the manner in which these candidates are perceived by China. More specifically:
- Delaware’s Joe Biden, a let’s call him centrist by Democrat standards or, if you will, a status quo politician who promises to reverse course from Donald Trump’s instability back to the predictability of the Barack Obama administration, where he acted as Vice President
- Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, a heavily left-leaning candidate by US standards and widely regarded as the most anti-establishment candidate of this cycle (as well as the previous one, where he was defeated by Hillary Clinton under circumstances many consider questionable). In this respect, as different to Trump’s as his policy suggestions may seem, he can be considered the Donald Trump-style candidate of the Democratic Party
- Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, also a strongly left-leaning candidate but unlike Bernie Sanders, she is most definitely not exactly considered anti-establishment… on the contrary, with many (especially those on the right) being eager to compare her to Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders
- Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a person who caters to the more religious segment among Democratic Party voters. While religious voters tend to be rather associated with the Republican Party, this segment cannot and should not be ignored by Democrats either
- New York’s Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur-turned-politician who is interested in bringing the UBI (Universal Basic Income) to the United States, with policy suggestions which even go as far as giving each US citizen $1,000 per month in a “no questions asked” manner, as per one of his famous tweets. Many of his ideas were considered eccentric during the debates, but as we have seen, that is no longer the case in a post-pandemic economic landscape (as evidenced by stimulus measures such as mailing $1,200 checks to Americans)
- Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu politician who served in the House, an advocate of progressive economic policies as well as an overall anti-war approach
- Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, a politician who can be considered let’s say the opposite of Donald Trump in terms of temperament and therefore an interesting option for those who have had enough of Trump’s aggressive/assertive leadership style
- The billionaire and former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, a very “exotic” presence who doesn’t shy away from spending himself to the spotlight (as illustrated by him spending over a quarter of a billion dollars on a very aggressive marketing campaign) but who represents a relatively “tough sell” in light of him being a former Republican and supporter of… George W. Bush
- California’s Tom Steyer, one of the most vocal politicians in the entire Donald Trump impeachment equation, a billionaire who vows to “betray” his social class and save the US from more or less obscure corporate interests
- Deval Patrick from Illinois, someone close to Barack Obama and who tried to re-ignite the Yes-We-Can modus operandi, unfortunately for him with far less success than Obama
- Colorado’s Michael Bennet, one of the more centrist candidates, a promoter of political common sense rather than the Bernie Sanders variety of progressive views
In our opinion, it is difficult to have a meaningfully comprehensive view on “all things China” without understanding that your analysis needs a worldwide context to be relevant. Simply put, it is impossible to properly analyze China without taking the United States variable into consideration and for this reason, yes, having a firm grasp on let’s say the top political players over in the United States isn’t just an intellectually stimulating endeavor… it’s a must.
That being stated and after providing a bit of information on the previously mentioned 11 politicians, who do we believe China would “prefer” as a candidate?
Simple: Donald Trump.
As strange as this statement may seem, especially after we have gone through the trouble of introducing the top 11 Democratic Party contenders, it makes perfect sense once you dig a bit deeper. And this digging endeavor will most likely bring you to an interesting geopolitical conclusion: during the Donald Trump administration, the United States essentially “managed” to shoot itself in the proverbial foot and do damage to its diplomatic interests more so than even China itself could have accomplished through a coordinated effort.
As a low-effort enumeration:
- Tensions with allies, including NATO allies, in light of Donald Trump aggressively demanding more military spending
- Tensions with neighbors, for example the now-famous border issues with Mexico and the wall that Mexico will allegedly pay for, either directly or indirectly
- Geopolitical withdrawal from the world’s hot spots, oftentimes creating a power vacuum which enabled other geopolitical players such as China and Russia to step in
- Economic isolationism or the (in)famous “America First” approach, which once again provided an excellent context for China to “brand” itself as a soft power more than willing to step in and fill the this time economic void, through projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative, AIIB and so on
- The severe lack of predictability as far as US foreign policy is concerned, when it comes to anything from Iran-related issues to the US withdrawal from the Paris Accords
… the risk could go on and on.
The bottom line is that one step at a time, the US under Donald Trump has proven to be a more and more unpredictable partner and from a diplomatic perspective where predictability is key, this represented a disastrous step back.
What about issues such as the trade tensions between China and the US, (potential) further barriers to trade and so on?
From China’s pragmatic perspective, they simply represent a variable in an ultra-complex equation and nothing more. Of course Beijing is less than thrilled about aspects such as the US-China trade situation but on the other hand, for reasons we have hopefully articulated in a coherent manner, what ultimately matters is the net result after drawing the line.
And, in our view, even with the trade and sanction-related cons, the pros associated with the US damaging its own positions geopolitically speaking under Donald Trump end up tilting the scale in favor of China being more than content with how things are developing during the Donald Trump administration, content enough for China to consider Trump the best possible option for its interests in 2020.