Former US president Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden. Photos: AFP / Jim Watson and Saul Loeb

The United States government will likely maintain most of its tough measures against China and sanctions on Hong Kong if President-elect Joe Biden, whose victory in the November 3 election is being contested by the Trump campaign, is sworn-in on January 20, according to political commentators and academics.

Some legal experts said that as the lawsuit filed by Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and personal attorney to US President Donald Trump, alleging electoral misconduct will probably take more than two months to reach a conclusion, it is possible that Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, could become the interim president.

“We are aware that Biden has declared his victory in the US presidential election. We understand that the results of the election will be decided by the US laws and procedures,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry.

For a very long time, China has sought better communications with the US with the aim of reducing conflicts on the basis of mutual respect and cooperating on the basis of mutual benefit and building a healthy and stable Sino-US relationship, he added.

Since Biden was declared the victor by the media on Saturday, most governments, including those of the United Kingdom and Taiwan, have congratulated the 77-year-old politician and his running mate Kamala Harris. However, the leaders of Russia and China have so far remained silent.

Jia Qingguo, a professor and former dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, told mainland media that under the Biden leadership, there would be room for US-China tensions to deescalate over the medium and long term but it was unlikely that Washington would ease its tough stance against China in the short term. Jia said the US would continue to forbid the sale of its high-tech products, including the most advanced semiconductors, to China while the restrictions on exporting other products from the US to China would be lifted.

Da Wei, a professor and dean of the Department of International Politics at the University of International Relations in Beijing, said the scale of the decoupling of China and the US would decrease after Biden became president. Da said the US sanctions on TikTok and WeChat would be cancelled while those on Huawei would continue. He said the US’s China policies would not simply return to the way they were under the Obama administration in 2016 as Americans had changed their views on China over the past four years.

Lau Siu-kai, a pro-Beijing academic and vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said a Biden administration would continue to take a hard line on China but at the same time seek to cooperate with it. Lau said Biden would only pay lip-service to Hong Kong political issues, instead of imposing more sanctions on the territory, as such moves would hurt the interests of US companies.

Raymond Young, chief executive of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong, said he hoped the new US president would allow Hong Kong manufacturers to use the “Made in Hong Kong” brand instead of the “Made in China” one. Young said Hong Kong businesspeople expected that Biden would respect global trade practices.

The Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, published an editorial titled “Don’t have fantasy on Sino-US relations but also don’t give up” on Sunday. It said Biden would put more emphasis than Trump on “so-called human right issues” in Hong Kong and Xinjiang but the US and China could still cooperate in some areas including epidemic containment, climate change, trade and student exchanges. It said China would continuously strengthen itself to meet challenges from the US.

It is worth noting that China’s online search engine and social media platforms have never censored news about the sex, drug and bribery scandals swirling around Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, nor the electoral fraud allegations raised by Giuliani against the Democrats.

A commentary published by El País, a spanish newspaper, was translated into Chinese and circulated on social media in China. The article, titled “Neither Trump nor Biden: the loser is the US electoral system,” said the US electoral system should be blamed for the messy situation in the country. Another Chinese blogger wrote that the US election system, as well as the separation of powers, did not represent the public and only serve the vested interests of the elites.

In Hong Kong, many pro-democracy supporters, who supported Trump due to his tough stance against China, felt depressed and frustrated after Biden won. They have split into two groups – those who accept the reality of the outcome and those who are waiting for a court decision.

Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the independent Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said in a post on Facebook that if Hong Kong people accused Biden of illegal conduct, they would no longer enjoy the right to call on his administration to support the territory’s democratic movement. However, Lee was severely criticized by Trump fans in Hong Kong, who said Biden was a puppet of Beijing.

Wang Dan, a Taiwan-based activist of the Chinese democracy movement, said he supported Trump but would accept that Biden had won. Wang said pro-democracy supporters in Taiwan and Hong Kong should not be divided by the US elections but closely monitor Biden’s performance.

Elmer Yuen, a retired Hong Kong entrepreneur and a pro-democracy activist, said Hong Kong people should not lose faith in Trump, whom he believed would ultimately win in the Supreme Court and remain in office. Yuen said the court case could take more than two months to reach a conclusion. He added that Biden should be punished for what he claimed was misconduct in relation to mail-in ballots.

Pelosi would be sworn in as the US president if the results of the election were not certified by January 20, Jonathan Adler, a law professor at the Case Western Reserve University, told CBS in a recent interview. Adler said the Supreme Court should make a decision as early as possible.

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