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Determining the fate of the transpacific China trade now that the Democrats are in the saddle

The United States and the Peoples Republic of China now find themselves on differing yet parallel courses while sharing similar stresses as they find their very different political systems under siege.

The extent of domestic division is evident in the US, and while the depth of such problems in China are apparent, it is clear few want to do business with the totalitarian People's Republic unless necessity dictates otherwise.

While home-shoring or near-shoring has been a popular cry of the Trump administration, it is a policy that has enjoyed only limited success because Asia is where goods can be made cheaply in the quantities the world demands.

So if the worst fears of Trumpists materialise, and the US pivots from Asia under Biden, Taiwan is induced to toe the Communist Party line as Hong Kong has been forced to do, and Japan rearms in the face of rising Chinese rearmament and the lack of US commitment. Yet, if all remains peaceful, there is the rest of Asia to fill the demand for affordable factory production that will keep traditional trade lanes as busy as ever.

One might expect great convulsions in both west and east. The United States is still seething with what half the country thinks was a stolen election while the other half does not care if it was because all measures were justified in fighting what they consider to be a greater evil.

Just as the Communist Party controls the media in China, the Democratic Party finds its media to be its permanent ally, with rare exception. This has been true since the 1960s, but growing more pronounced since the '70s and '80s as media ownership became distant from content and solely concerned with revenue. This turned the press corps into a self-governing and leftist self-perpetuating editorial collective.

The process was different in the Chinese Communist media but paralleled its ideological development, epitomised in the west by such state-owned institutions as the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In the absence of any governing countervailing direction from the right at the top the media moved steadily left.

US President Joe Biden, who visited China and met with then-leader Jiang Zemin in August 2001, will soon be contending with Xi Jinping and his superpower ambitions, said Japan's Nikkei bureau chief in China Tetsushi Takahashi.

The Chinese government has made strides in containing the coronavirus, which has infected tens of thousands and killed more than 4,000 in the country while spreading worldwide. At the same time, Beijing is locked in an increasingly heated diplomatic confrontation with Washington.

Said Mr Takahashi: "I recently came across an old picture of Joe Biden shaking hands with China's president at the time, Jiang Zemin. It was published on the front page of the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's main mouthpiece.

"Biden, now the US president, was 58 years old when he visited China as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and met Jiang at the coastal resort of Beidaihe, Hebei Province.

President Jiang, who was 74, said that Chinese people had always had friendly feelings toward Americans, according to accounts of the meeting. Vice President Biden apparently responded that the US wanted China to develop and grow strong, and that this would be in the interest of both countries.

Back then, the US had overwhelming strength as the world's lone superpower after winning the Cold War. Biden must not have seen China as a competitor yet. Of course, he could not have known that just one month later, the September 11 attacks would shake the foundations of American supremacy.

"Nearly 20 years on, China is rapidly catching up with the US," said Mr Takahashi.

President Donald Trump has tried to stall China's momentum by waging a trade war, he said. "Mr Biden, who was to became the oldest US president inaugurated at age 78, surely sees China and its one-party rule very differently now."

Chinese President Xi Jinping, 67, visited Jiangsu Province, stopping by Yangzhou, which is known for the Grand Canal built in the seventh century.

Said President Xi: "The Grand Canal has brought significant benefits to the city and its people for thousands of years," Xi said, stressing China's long history as a source of strength. He clearly wants to put up a fight against the US, founded less than 250 years ago, under a rallying cry of "the great reconstruction of the Chinese people."

Yangzhou also happens to be the hometown of former President Jiang, who at age 94 is still considered an influential figure. As President Xi looks to cement his grip on power for a long rein into the 2030s, his visit to Jiang's turf has enormous political implications.

The Jiang connection brought to mind the People's Liberation Army General Hospital, or the 301 Hospital, in western Beijing. On the roof is a sign with the hospital's name in Jiang's handwriting. Deng Xiaoping, who led China's "reform and opening up" policy, died there in 1997, leaving Jiang to inherit the policy.

But walking in the courtyard, one can now find Xi's portrait and a big sign with the slogan, "Follow the party's orders, win the fight and show good performance."

President Xi is determined to break China's dependence on the US and build a comparable superpower. The China that Biden is about to face is not the country he used to deal with.

Only late in the game, did Chinese authorities recognise Joe Biden as the victor in the US presidential election. At least officially, the Democrat was seen only as the candidate projected by the media to win.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin finally said that China "extends its congratulations" to Biden and running mate Kamala Harris. "We respect the choice of the American people," he said in his regular briefing, while also reiterating that the "results of the US election will be determined according to US laws and procedures."

It sounded a bit like an excuse after stubbornly insisting for days that the outcome was not finalised. Perhaps, Beijing came to the conclusion that Biden will indeed be the next occupant of the White House. Now another question is when Chinese President Xi Jinping himself might congratulate Biden.

While there will be efforts to blacken Biden's victory with charges election fraud, at least to the extent President Trump's term was tainted by hyper partisan political opposition, the Democrat candidate, and his cohorts, are in charge for the next four years.

While the differences in attitude are great between the outgoing Republican and incoming Democratic administrations, the China trade issue remains. It is an issue upon which Americans are largely agreed and one which the Biden administration will find difficult to reverse.

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U.S. Trade Specialists

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