Beijing gave off the outward appearance of Trump’s election not being important – but elites are utterly shaken.
The whole world switched to crisis mode because of the U.S. presidential election. Only China gave off the appearance of being unconcerned – just like normal, as if the election results didn’t affect them. During the state’s evening news, Trump’s victory wasn’t mentioned for 10 minutes, and was the third story that was reported.
The main news on CCTV had nothing to do with Trump. It showed President Xi Jingpin talking for several minutes on the phone about Beijing’s spaceport with both “comrade astronauts” Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong in their small flying spacelab, “Tiagong,” 400 kilometers up high (approximately 249 miles). By 2024, Beijing plans to build its own space station from several modules, which will then be the only one in space. Due to age, the U.S. is scrapping its International Space Station. When the U.S. wants to send astronauts into space, it will have to first knock on China’s door to get in.
Beijing hid how important the U.S. elections really were. With the votes still not counted, a government spokesperson claimed on Wednesday in the Global Times that “the result will not have a major impact on us, no matter who wins.” Were Trump to win, it would mean that he would challenge China on economic and trade channels. If Clinton were to win, she would establish “strategic and geopolitical hurdles for us.”
The election results, according to further comments, would “not lead to any extreme change between China and the U.S., neither for better or worse,” both countries being too big and too dependent on one another. Commentators asserted that the days when Washington determined how things go were “long over.”
That also applied to the argument regarding the South China Sea. It was believed that the U.S. would pull the short straw if it pulled the lever against China, as they were not able to get Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi or Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on their side. “A trade war with the U.S. is not on China’s wish list, but it is prepared, should things come to such a scenario,” commentators said.
More Tensions under Clinton
The influential economic researcher Mei Xinyu from the Ministry of Commerce wrote on the day of the election that Beijing would come to terms better with Trump than with Hillary Clinton. With her, political and military tensions would be greater, Xinyu said. In contrast, Trump supposedly wishes to do away with ideological divides between the U.S. and other countries.
Not everyone takes Trump’s words so literally. The state agency Xinhua added a warning to the commentary: “Washington must ensure that under the new president, relations stay on track,” recalling the historic climate change deal signed by both countries, which Trump has distanced himself from.
China’s elites are obviously shaken up after the election concerning Trump, according to insiders. Economist Zhu Ning said no one knows how serious Trump’s threats were about raising a punitive 45 percent tariff on China’s exports and branding Beijing as a currency manipulator.
International relations expert Wu Xingtang expects a worldwide increase in populist movements against globalization, which would hurt China. He warned about false assumptions that divisiveness in the U.S. is a sign of the superpower’s downfall. North Korean researcher Zhang Liangui appeared worried. Trump’s statements that he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after the inauguration and encourage Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons were the elephant in the room. The consequences would be unimaginable.