With US President Donald Trump showing no signs that he will leave office gracefully after his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden in the US Presidential elections, experts and former officials say they fear a growing risk that he could make disruptive moves to double down on priorities and tie his successor’s hands in his final months in the White House.
Experts added that China could be a particular target, given Trump’s repeated efforts to blame Beijing for the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic conditions of the United States, says Mark Magnier in the South China Morning Post.
“Trump has promised to punish China for COVID-19, so the question is, what does that mean,” said Jeff Moon, principal at China Moon Strategies and former National Security Council official. Mangier writes that one way to worsen the already fragile US-China relations and to undermine the Biden administration move to improve bilateral cooperation on global environmental and health issues, could possibly involve Taiwan.
Beyond taking the potentially explosive step of labelling China guilty of genocide for the mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Trump could attempt to block visas for more Communist party officials, or make trouble by trying to order US athletes to skip the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Other Trump options may include subjecting more Chinese state-owned companies to sanctions, expanding restrictions on “dual-use” civilian-military exports, banning more Chinese apps after its TikTok and WeChat campaigns and blocking all semiconductor sales to Huawei Technologies beyond those for 5G networks.
Even without unsettling eleventh-hour moves, an incoming Biden administration will be confronting a more emboldened Beijing, reported SCMP.
“China’s power has increased considerably in the last four years…I would therefore expect many of the Biden policies to bear some resemblance to the Trump administration,” said Sarah Kreps, a Cornell University law and government professor.
According to the Pew Research Centre, 73% of Americans hold a negative view of China, up 13% points from last year, and 20 points from 2017 when Trump took office. Moments after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was projected to be the winner of the US presidential elections, Trump refused to concede defeat, saying that the election was “far from over”, and promised legal challenges by his re-election campaign.
Meanwhile, the US government had earlier removed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement from its list of terrorist organisations after nearly two decades that has led to the weakening of China’s anti-terror pretext for a draconian crackdown on Uyghurs in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The US move comes amid worldwide condemnation of China’s policies in Xinjiang, where a large population of Muslim minorities is detained in re-education camps.
About 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang has been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.
However, China regularly denies such mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training.
People in the internment camps have said they are subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and denial of food and medicine, besides being prohibited from practising their religion or speaking their language.