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Experts weigh in on effect of mid-term election results on China-US relations

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping leave a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2017. Photo: AFP

With the conclusion of the mid-term elections in the United States earlier this month, experts from China and America have joined the broad discussion about how the election results would influence the trade confrontation between the two countries.

Republicans took power in the Senate in the critical mid-term election, while Democrats won control of the House. In the governor races, Democrats made some key gains in seven states previously held by Republicans.

During the Bloomberg New Economy Forum that wrapped up in Singapore last week, David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman of Carlyle Group, thought that the mid-term election results would force Republicans and Democrats to make compromises on issues they are deeply divided on, which means that the Senate controlled by Republicans would become more moderate.

In Rubenstein's opinion, the current trade confrontation between China and the United States could not be called "trade war", which he defined as "trade conflict" that could be avoided by certain "arrangement".

Ahead of the mid-term election, US President Donald Trump reportedly asked his cabinet members to begin drafting potential terms leading to a possible trade agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Argentina later this month.

However, in an interview with Caixin, a leading business news provider in China, David Wessel, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, said that the situation of Democrats capturing control of the House and Republicans holding the Senate would not make Trump soften his tough trade stance on China, saying that many Democrats seem to be more supportive of Trump's harsh policy than Republicans. The possibility that Trump would continue to maintain tension with China is still very high, predicted Wessel.

In order to reach a deal between China and the United States, Trump should stop making tough comments over trade with China while China should take seriously the criticism about its problems including low degree of openness, infringement of intellectual property rights and mandatory technology transfer, according to Wessel.

Wessel said that the United States should set aside prejudices over China's economic development mode, which has brought prosperity to the populous country, and find a way that can let the two sides clearly know each other's views on different things without hurting their own interests.

In Wessel's opinion, the future China-US relationship will either enter into a new era of Cold War or a Cold Peace, which means that the two countries could find some ways to cooperate, admitting each other's differences, and with the United States stopping to dream about remodeling China into a country like itself.

In another interview with Caixin, Zha Daojiong, a professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, denied the notion that Trump would become soft with China over trade problems if Republicans lose control of the House, saying that American elites and politicians are basically in support of the president's tough trade policy toward China and their attitude would remain unchanged after the mid-term election.

Zha suggested that China should seek a more innovative way to communicate with the United States and stop using retaliation as a response.

Daniel Twining, president of the International Republican Institute, told that Trump's tough trade policy toward China would keep unchanged after the mid-term election and the Republican Party and the Democratic Party traditionally align with each other in regard to foreign policy.

Generally, the House and the Senate tend to be conservative about international issues, which could be reflected in the bills previously approved by the House and the Senate on the sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea, according to Twining.

In addition, most Americans care more about their employment and the domestic economy than their country's relationship with China, said Twining, adding that the competition between China and the United States is structural and could be downplayed by cooperation on issues like the North Korean nuclear crisis.

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