As many people across America celebrate the defeat of Donald Trump, it is possible before he exits the Oval Office, Trump could make some decisions that he could be disruptive to President-elect Joe Biden and particularly for China, the country that Trump holds responsible for the Wuhan Virus and the raison d’etre for his defeat in the election.
By Balaji Subramanian
Before Trump leaves office, he can under the powers of executive orders, subject sanctions on more Chinese state-owned companies, restrictions on “dual-use” civilian-military exports, banning more Chinese apps, blocking all semiconductor sales to Huawei Technologies beyond those for 5G networks.
The worst fear for China is the possibility of being declared as a currency manipulator during the period of transfer of power and Trump has still not concealed defeat because he claims there was widespread electoral fraud and it is now clear the path to a peaceful transfer of power is very narrow.
According to James Green, a Georgetown University senior fellow and former trade negotiator who said, “I think there is a good chance for mischief across a range of US policies leading up to the inauguration. “In terms of cooperative handover procedures, I worry about that. It seems to me one of those norms that the Trump administration has no interest in upholding.”
Many believe Trump holds China responsible for his defeat and if the Wuhan virus had not occurred, he would have easily won the election. So it is quite possible Trump could issue more executive orders, agency rulemaking, appointments that don’t require Senate confirmation, and individuals who were political appointees shifted to civil service, and this process is called “burrowing in”.
But many believe China will receive the short end of the stick because Trump has repeatedly held China responsible for the pandemic and sagging economy that has led to his eventual loss.
Former National Security Council official Jeff Moon says there could be last-minute punitive moves against Beijing and “Trump has promised to punish China for Covid-19, so the question is, what does that mean,”.
Trump could make many policies that will be hard to reverse with regard to China and Iran. The other reason will be human rights which is a sticky subject for China and Trump could hold China guilty of “genocide” for the mass detention of Uygur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.
However, executive orders are not laws passed by Congress and do not carry the weight of law, but still, it can make things difficult for the Biden administration. Any quick reversals of policies will be seen with suspicion by both an ally and adversaries.
When it comes to human rights the Democratic Party is the torchbearer and by putting sanctions on Communist Party officials and just as America did not participate in the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow, Trump’s decisions could spell trouble for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Already 2020, Tokyo Olympics had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 causing considerable loss to the Japanese exchequer.
To give credence to Trump, according to a Pew Research Centre, 73 per cent of Americans hold a negative view of China. Also, China has not made matters easy due to its expansionism in the South China Sea, the present conflict with India in Ladakh, the blatant human rights violation Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the clear and present danger posed to Taiwan.
If Trump decides to take action against China based on such assertions, it would be very hard for Biden to countermand such decisions.
For Biden, the task is cut out as he has to please the hard left Antifa and liberals who want to do away with many of the existing political norms. Biden also has to deal with the right which overwhelmingly voted for Trump and deal with a partisan Congress and Senate.
Already there is a China Task Force report released in late September this year and it has 82 key findings and 400 “forward leaning recommendations” that calls for investigation for genocide claims, and an “all of government” response to Communist Party propaganda, check Beijing’s role in the UN and fund technologies to circumvent Chinese censorship.
Biden cannot undermine such reports and will be labeled going soft on China and communists. Also, if Biden goes soft on China it will only give more credibility to his detractors, particularly Trump who directly accused Hunter Biden of taking money from China.
Already China has started to make an overture to Biden, hoping to ease tension and restore trade balance. However, it looks more difficult than that because China with its inequitable trade policies and flexing its military muscle to intimidate and manufacture conflict with practically all its neighbors has forced many in the American policy circle to take a more confrontational stand.
It is likely, Biden’s policies on China will be no different than that of Donald Trump or Trump could simply put aside his differences with China for the sake of his business.
Balaji Subramanian is a freelance writer who writes in the field of mental health, music and politics. He tweets @LaxmanShriram78