Delist or not delist, that was the question. The New York Stock Exchange has kept changing course on three Chinese telecoms giants, and that has upset everyone, from investors to regulators, in China and the United States. Now, an irate US Treasury Department has told the exchange that it must carry out one of the last executive orders of outgoing President Donald Trump to drop China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom. This comes after the exchange said they would be kept on despite the order. The exchange has been caught up in an impossible position created by the incoherent anti-China stance of the Trump White House that has been all bombast but little strategy. This continues even during the last days of his presidency. It has hurt not only Chinese but American interests. President-elect Joe Biden may not be any friendlier to Beijing, but he needs to pursue a more consistent and coherent policy. The order signed by Trump last year prohibits Americans from investing in businesses with ties to the Chinese military, but it has been criticised as being vaguely worded. Why target the big three telecoms but not an oil giant like China National Offshore Oil Corporation? In any case, their delisting will have minimal impact because they register as American depositary receipts, which are thinly traded on the US exchange. NYSE reverses course again with plan to delist Chinese telecoms firms This month, Trump signed another executive order banning American transactions with Chinese payment apps including Alipay, WeChat Pay and Tencent’s QQ Wallet, thereby further inflaming tensions with Beijing. Alipay is an affiliate of Ant Group and Alibaba, which owns this newspaper. The scattershot approach taken by Trump and his most faithful appointees before they leave office appears to be an attempt to box in the new president. Biden may find it hard to revise their decisions without being exposed to criticism that he is going soft on China. In any case, Trump’s bans are popular with anti-China hawks on Capitol Hill such as Marco Rubio, a Republican senator, who wants to cut off funding to Chinese companies from the US financial system. Biden has his work cut out to untangle the web of obstructions and landmines placed by Trump. Both sides need to work out where they have common interests and where core values are at stake. Pushing Chinese companies off Wall Street, though, may be good for Hong Kong. It means those firms and their investors may well decamp to the city. That may be why the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) has overtaken Chicago-based CME Group as the world’s largest bourse by market capitalisation. Trump may be good for Hong Kong after all.