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Will a divided Capitol hill give China a break
Photo: sino.com.cn
 
The bipartisan power attrition and the ensuing policy disarray after the midterm poll might not bide so well for China which may find itself at the cross-hairs of both parties. Unless the US economy is showing some signs of debilitation, the anti-China consensus which has been conjured up by a fear of China’s growing assertiveness globally and antipathy of its domestic left-leaning will be extremely hard to dissolve.

The US midterm election results might be good news for Democrats, but it could spell trouble for China.

The US president’s instincts to “escalate” at his low points in politics by acting more erratically, more aggressively and more dangerously means China could face immediate uncertainties in the aftermath of the Republicans’ loss of the House of Representatives.

China should temper its expectation a democratic win in Congress can unravel the trade gridlock the two countries are embroiled in. But the bipartisan power complexity and the ensuing policy disarray after the midterm poll might not bide so well for China.  There will be a period of pretty significant volatility in the US Asia strategy as the fallout of Republican's loss of the midterm is going to rein in the wayward administration and the US leader is going to lash out even more on diplomatic issues where he relatively has a free hand. To the dismay of Chinese government, that offensive will manifest itself most in the US relationship with Beijing, not only in the form of trade war but ramped-up military tension over the South China Sea.

In the past, the US and China have tried to keep military, trade and other issues separate to avoid having conflict in one area undermine the broader relationship. But the hawk-packed Trump administration now appears to have abandoned that idea and is applying pressure across the board. And the midterm result is hardly going to change its tenor as Republican loss of the lower house didn't have much to do with tariffs or trade protectionism which were not an issue in most House races, despite US and Chinese duties that have affected many congressional districts.

Of the 28 seats gained by Democrats, according to press reports, only nine were won by candidates who held different views of tariffs than their Republican rivals, indicating that other issues were more important to voters. In Senate races, Republicans that defeated incumbent Democrats generally agreed with the Trump administration’s use of tariffs as leverage to gain better trade agreements, though again, other issues appeared to be more important to voters.

The grim prospect of an even tougher line on China is pushing Beijing to pin its hope on the Democrats to ease the tension. 
 
Will Democrats come to China's rescue?
 
Contrasting the bipartisan bickering on many fronts, China bashing has been one of those rare salvos the two parties can concord upon. To mirror or back up Trump’s administration, the Republican controlled Congress has been pushing back against China across a broad range of issues: Chinese investment and particularly attempted acquisitions of hi-tech companies and assets; technology theft and forced technology transfer; commercial and national security espionage; so-called “influence activities” on university campuses and in civil society; penetrating Chinese-American communities and buying up Chinese-language media; harassment of Chinese citizens in the US; Beijing’s expanding global influence and propaganda; its robust military modernization program and naval build-up; China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and other perceived challenges to the US, though most of the charges were denied by Beijing.

The divided 116th Congress may get even tougher on these and other issues.

For decades, ever since President Richard Nixon made a historic visit to Communist China in 1972, it was his fellow Republicans -- more pro-business than the Democrats -- who tended to be China's closest allies in Washington. It was Democrats who have vehemently attacked, what they called, China's human rights abuses and repression of its civil society.  And House Democrats are the most protectionist group in Congress, if Trump makes a deal that fails to achieve significant changes to China’s practices, they’ll jump all over him.

Even though Democrats and Republicans disagree on many issues, they hold exactly the same negative opinion of China. Anti-China has become the political correctness in the US.

We must bear in mind that America’s strategies towards China changed in 2010 when Obama was still in power. Hillary Clinton’s accusations of China during her presidential campaign were also strident by saying that she would toughen trade policy toward China. Even now, Democrats’ leader Nancy Pelosi has not been friendly towards China. Here is what Pelosi thinks about China tariffs: “The report of the USTR investigation on China’s intellectual property theft is a good first step, but far more is needed to confront the full range of China’s bad behavior. Beijing’s regulatory barriers, localization requirements, labor abuses, anticompetitive ‘Made in China 2025’ policy and many other unfair trade practices require a full and comprehensive response. The tariffs announced today should be used as a leverage point to negotiate more fair and open trade for U.S. products in China.” The differences between the two parties only lie in political styles, but they are essentially on the same page in terms of the position towards China.

With the Republican president aligned with them, analysts see opportunities for cooperation between the White House and Democrats, though they won’t see eye-to-eye on everything.

Even those Democrats who may be upset that Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods and steel and aluminum will raise business costs and prices also face a practical problem in that they have little legislative means to stop them, since they are the result of under the purview of the executive branch of government which do not need Congressional approval.

To conclude, it is a fair guess that Democrats will largely support Trump’s China agenda, unless it becomes clear that an escalating tariff war is starting to do serious harm to the US economy. The only hope for compromise is if the US economy also shows signs of slowing, which might lead the two sides to negotiate some kind of new trade deal.Is

Anti-China consensus the new political correctness in Washington?


What’s underlying deteriorating China-US ties is the US mentality of refusing to accept China’s rise and the growth model it took. 
 
An anti-China consensus in the US is attributable to the fact that a range of Chinese policies have stepped on the toes of a wide variety of actors, from the US military, to businesses, to nonprofits, to academics and journalists.

The US military and security community has long been concerned about China’s military modernization and expanding footprint in Asia and across the Indo-Pacific. American (and other foreign) businesses have felt increasingly squeezed and discriminated against. Foreign NGOs felt the constraining impact of China’s new NGO law, and many abandoned working in China. Academics find it increasingly difficult to do normal scholarly research in China as archives, libraries, interviews, fieldwork and other opportunities have become increasingly circumscribed. Some foreigners claimed they are under increasing surveillance by China’s internal security service, and entry visas have been tightened. And, finally, since 2017, concerns began to grow about China’s “influence activities” inside the US and other countries.

China’s internal politics have also veered into a direction dropping jaws of western democracies, and some Western observers believe the Chinese government has shifted towards a strongman style characterized with a more combative, jingoistic and Marxist fundamentalism, or a nationalist-Marxist combination.

Under the new leadership, patriotic education campaigns have been revived, and the tone of public commentary has become more strident and critical of the United States, and of democracy’s perceived shortcomings. New cyber and counter-terrorism laws have further curtailed individual freedoms. By harnessing advances in big data, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition software, the Chinese state has considerably enhanced both its digital and physical surveillance capacities. It aims to export this dystopian suite of technological capabilities to like-minded nations around the globe. In short, the environment has become one of tighter domestic grip, and of more overt hostility toward the US-led alliance system in Asia.

Fear of China’s growing assertiveness globally and antipathy of the domestic left-leaning has finally conjured up an Anti-China consensus in the Capital hill, the new American hard line on China can be expected to linger on in the foreseeable future.
 

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