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China-US relations

China ‘in for more tough American talk’ – no matter who wins the November midterm elections

Donald Trump accuses Beijing of meddling in the November election campaigns, claims the trade rival denies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 11:31pm

China is expecting the United States to continue to take a tough stand towards Beijing, no matter which political party has control of the US Congress after November’s midterm elections, diplomatic observers said.

And regardless of the election results, Beijing will seek to expand international markets as it fights an increasingly bitter trade war with Washington, they added.

The assessment came after US President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused China of seeking to meddle in the November elections in favour of the opposition Democrats.

“We found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration,” Trump said in a speech to the United Nations Security Council. “They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade, and we are winning on trade.”

Donald Trump accuses China of seeking to meddle in US midterm congressional elections

After the speech, Trump went one step further, casting doubt on whether his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, was still a “friend”, a term he used to describe Xi after their first meeting at his Florida resort in April last year.

“He may not be a friend of mine any more but I think he probably respects me,” Trump said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denied that Beijing was interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

Geng said the international community was clear which country was responsible for the most interference, and urged the United States to stop damaging relations with China.

Trump did not offer direct evidence to support his election interference claim, but in a tweet soon after his UN remarks, he criticised a four-page advertising supplement placed by state-owned China Daily in an Iowa newspaper on Sunday.

The supplement was critical of Trump’s hard-line approach on trade and promoted the mutual benefits of US-China trade, in contrast with the White House’s use of tariffs as a weapon in the trade conflict.

Iowa is a major US centre for corn and pig production, goods that are covered by Chinese tariffs introduced in July. It also one of a number of agricultural states that are considered Republican strongholds.

Yuan Zhen, a Sino-US affairs specialist from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing’s tariffs were aimed at Trump’s base but even if the Republicans lost control of the Congress, Washington’s tough rhetoric against Beijing would continue.

“Both the Democrats and Republicans will get harder on China,” Yuan said. “The Democrats may counterbalance Trump and make changes to the US diplomatic agenda, but the overall trend will be the same.

“No matter which party wins the midterm elections, Beijing is prepared for an eight-year Trump administration and will try to improve trade ties with countries other than the US.”

Donald Trump takes aim at China over trade imbalance but hails progress on North Korea during UN address

Liu Weidong, also from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Trump’s accusation was a tactic to boost domestic support before the midterms.

“Trump is playing the China card and want to shore up support for his strong stance against Beijing,” Liu said.

Although the next presidential election is not until 2020, Democrat control of Congress could present barriers to Trump’s agenda.

As of Wednesday, opinion poll analysis by the US website FiveThirtyEight gave the Democrats a 79.9 per cent chance of retaking the House of Representatives and a 31.6 per cent chance of winning back the Senate. Both are now controlled by the Republicans.