US President Donald Trump is seeking re-election next year. One of the most controversial and divisive presidents in American history, he moves toward the campaign trail facing possible impeachment.
Much has been reported and analyzed about this norm-shattering president’s so-called base. These are the folk who would back him regardless – or those who, in Trump’s own words, would still vote for him even if he shot someone on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
It has been a widely held view that his core supporters are low-earning and little-educated, white, blue-collar male workers in the “Rust Belt” states. However, actual exit polling from the 2016 general election proves this to be an inaccurate depiction of who actually voted for Trump. He secured a large proportion of middle-class, high-earning voters, many of whom were women.
Shall I tell you who else could be, surprisingly, supporting Donald Trump? China.
This may sound bizarre, if not plainly wrong. After all, this is the president who has built his reputation partly on being the first US leader to be willing and able to be tough on China.
This is the president who took a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen. This is the president who has instigated a trade war with China that has had serious knock-on effects for the global economy. This is the president who has banned the Chinese tech giant Huawei from American 5G (fifth-generation) networks, and has placed visa restrictions on Chinese government officials.
Why, then, would China support Trump’s re-election in 2020?
It is because President Trump’s policies and rhetoric have proved useful to China in achieving its longer-term, strategic goals.
In a variety of serious and far-reaching ways, President Trump’s administration has undermined Washington’s global credibility, and international governance bodies such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the World Trade Organization. The latter of these it now largely ignores – thereby giving other nations, including its trade rival, China, free license to do the same when it comes to the settlement of important global trade disputes.
It has also undermined key alliances. For instance, by abandoning America’s Kurdish partners in Syria, the Trump administration sent a message to allies everywhere that Washington can’t be trusted.
The White House has, in addition, been indifferent if not antagonistic toward major trading agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
While President Trump is busy tearing up key arrangements that have been hugely significant in the US becoming the world’s largest economy, Beijing is pushing ahead with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a deal that would link China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into the largest trading bloc on Earth.
All of these factors compromise the standing of the United States as the world’s primary superpower and provide China with openings and opportunities it has previously never had in terms of global influence and setting international trade conventions.
It can therefore be reasonably assumed that despite the US president’s bluster on China, Chinese officials are, perhaps sensibly, keen on seeing him re-elected next year.