Nov 10, 2020 - World

What China thinks of Biden

Biden and Xi Jingping
Vice President Joe Biden welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping in Washington, D.C., Sept. 24, 2015. Photo: Xinhua/Huang Jingwen via Getty Images.

China's leaders see President-elect Joe Biden as a more predictable, but not necessarily less formidable, U.S. leader.

Why it matters: Relations aren't likely to be chummy, but Beijing is hoping diplomacy between the two superpowers can be restored.

  • Leaders in Beijing know Biden may be easier to deal with in some respects and more difficult in others.
  • The Biden administration isn't likely to confront China quite as directly as Trump has, but it is also more likely to bring allies, making U.S. moves harder for China to counter in the long run.

Background: Judging by the relative restraint China's leaders have shown amid the Trump administration's full-court press against the country in recent months, Beijing seems hopeful the U.S.-China relationship can improve under Biden.

  • The Chinese Communist Party has met the Trump administration's boldest moves, such as the closure of the Houston consulate, with equal tit-for-tat responses.
  • But leaders in Beijing in other cases haven't responded in kind, seemingly hoping to prevent irreparable damage to the U.S.-China relationship should a new president take over in 2021.

What to watch: China still hasn't acknowledged Biden's win — though that doesn't necessarily mean they are unhappy with it.

  • "Beijing recognizes Trump will be president for two more months. Beijing has incentive to try to avoid being in Trump's political crosshairs," Ryan Hass, who worked on China at the National Security Council under Obama, tweeted.
  • "Beijing likely sees more risk than gain in getting ahead of Trump in acknowledging the outcome of the election," wrote Hass.

Go deeper: Trump leaves Biden tough choices for his own China playbook

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