Mixing the increasingly complex relationship with China with the US presidential election was certain to create lots of sound and fury. To be overly simplistic, it dovetails with a tried-and-true campaign strategy: blame the foreigners. Despite the election campaign hyperbole, the number of fraught issues between the US and China is increasing, meaning the results of the US election will have significant consequences for the relationship between the world’s two largest economies for years to come. Officials in Beijing, Taipei and Hong Kong, and in every capital in Asia, are keenly watching daily election developments, because the growing US-China rivalry has broad security and trade implications for every country in the region. Democratic challenger Joe Biden has increased his lead in election polls in the past two weeks following a series of set-backs for President Donald Trump. In a one-week period in late September and early October, the New York Times reported that Trump paid virtually no taxes over a 15 year period. As this video shows, the first debate between Trump and Biden was a free-for-all, more befitting a professional wrestling match than a reasoned exchange over who should hold the nation’s highest office. And then Trump announced he’d tested positive for the coronavirus and left the hospital after only three days. That diagnosis focused attention back on accusations that the Trump administration‘s lack of action to control the virus had led to widespread infections throughout the country, with more dead in the US than anywhere else in the world, seen by Democrats at their most potent election issue. Trump, seeking to deflect attention away from his own infection, ramped up criticism of China, calling the coronavirus the “China virus” and vowed to “make China pay” for not doing enough to control its spread. Beijing, in line with its effort to avoid publicly interfering with the US election, did not respond this time to Trump’s provocative comments. It even ordered the People’s Liberation Army to hold its tongue. In contrast, when Trump said in the spring that China would face “consequences” for the virus, Beijing charged he was smearing China’s good name and so Washington would suffer consequences of its own. Even without the central issue of the origins of the coronavirus, the US stance towards China remains a key issue in the election campaign. While China is trying to stay out of the political fray, its one-party structure may cause it to ignore signs that its own actions are fueling suspicion, making it an election issue. And even as it tries to avoid the spotlight, right-wing media in the US is making sure that the anti-China policy drumbeat goes on, with US officials continuing to demonise the Chinese Communist Party both for policy purposes and as an election prop. During the prize fight masquerading as a presidential debate, China was a key topic, with each candidate trying to beat the other over the head with it. There is a general consensus that the US get-tough policy towards China is unlikely to change much whoever the next president is. However, there could be a change in tactics, with experts expecting Biden to try to rally allies to form a united front against China. The Trump administration has been gradually testing the boundaries of the nearly 50-year old One-China policy, increasing military aid to Taiwan and sending a series of cabinet level officials to visit the government of the self-ruled island. It remains unclear whether Trump or Biden would restore the “strategic ambiguity” of the One-China policy after the election, or whether either would be able to resist growing calls for closer ties with the democratic government, which could pose a grave threat to US-China relations. There are also questions whether a Biden presidency would stop, or at least slow down, the rapidly escalating tech war between the US and China. The tech war is turning into a battle royale as the US tries to short circuit China’s efforts to produce its own semiconductors, with that struggle spilling over into relations with Taiwan, a chip manufacturing powerhouse. As we covered in the previous edition of this newsletter, the election has also stumped Trump’s efforts to ban popular Chinese short video app Tiktok, at least for now. Human rights issues have also been prominent in the campaign, with Trump enacting a series of measures to punish officials and institutions in Hong Kong for imposition of the new National Security Law and in Xinjiang for alleged human rights abuses. Biden has jumped on that bandwagon, suggesting he would punish Chinese leaders for their treatment of minorities in Xinjiang. While Biden has built what seems to be a very strong lead with only two weeks to go before the election on November 3, analysts continue to caution that a Trump victory cannot be ruled out, noting his historic comeback to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. 60 second catch-up Explainer: US presidential election: the candidates, the issues, the polls … and China Explainer: Is Donald Trump hoping his China-bashing can help him win re-election? Deep Dives Who does China really want to win the US elections? Joe Biden may adopt a more conventional approach to diplomacy compared with Donald Trump, but many observers expect the rivalry between the two countries to endure Beijing’s foreign policy establishment is split over which candidate is the ‘lesser of two evils’, but some hope it is not too late to reset relations As voters in the United States prepare for the presidential election in November, the South China Morning Post will explore the potential ramifications for China. In this first part of the series, Shi Jiangtao examines the high stakes for China, which both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have branded a central threat to US interests. While Joe Biden’s campaign may be widely perceived as offering American voters a “return to normalcy” after the Trump era, few expect the same when it comes to US-China relations. Read the full story here. How would Biden’s trade policy on China differ from Trump’s? Americans feel more negative about China than ever before, yet healthy trade ties with the world’s No 2 economy remain surprisingly popular among US voters Biden faces challenge in differentiating his China trade policy from Trump’s, with ex-White House aides expecting tactical changes rather than an overhaul As voters in the United States prepare for the presidential election on November 3, the South China Morning Post is exploring the potential ramifications for China. The second part of the series looks at how the potential China trade policy of Joe Biden would differ from that of Donald Trump. You can read the first part of the series here. At the start of August, a Joe Biden presidential campaign aide rushed to clarify comments the candidate gave in an interview with National Public Radio, which some news outlets interpreted as saying he would remove Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. Read full story here. To those affected by US-China relations, this election is a nail-biter People who cannot vote but whose lives have changed because of White House policies are watching the race closely But few believe a Biden victory would mean a complete reversal in anti-China sentiment As voters in the United States prepare for the presidential election on November 3, the South China Morning Post is exploring the potential ramifications for China. The 10th part in the series looks at the race through the eyes of non-US citizens directly affected by deteriorating US-China relations. Read the entire series here. If US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are to be believed, the upcoming presidential election is the most consequential in American history. Read the full story here. Asian-Americans grow louder in their bid for a political voice In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Au is one of 158 Asian-Americans vying for state legislative seats, up from 139 two years ago A disparate group realises that leverage can be maximised by joining forces with other minorities on issues of common concern As voters in the United States prepare for the presidential election in November, the South China Morning Post is exploring the potential ramifications for China with its US election series. New York City native Michelle Au is running for Georgia state senator as a Democrat in November, a move that might seem counter-intuitive for the daughter of Hong Kong-born parents in a conservative state with a long history of racism and voter suppression. Read the full story here. Global Impact is a fortnightly curated newsletter featuring a news topic originating in China with a significant macro impact for our newsreaders around the world. Sign up now!