The Battle of 2 Old Americans

The United States will hold its presidential election in November, and it appears that President Joe Biden will engage once more in a face-off with Donald Trump. The effect this will have on the trilateral relationship among the U.S., China and Taiwan deserves serious attention.

Biden was born in 1942, making him the oldest president in American history at 81. Only three years younger than Biden, Trump would be the second oldest president if reelected. Together, they have a combined age of nearly 160 years. You could, therefore, call this an election between two elders. Where Biden appears old-fashioned, projecting a dull and uninteresting style, Trump is not only full of energy, but occasionally makes memorable yet provocative remarks, so his support has not waned.

A recent poll by American news outlet CNBC reports that President Biden’s support has already dropped to 35% — the lowest result this survey has recorded since Biden took office. Approximately two-thirds of respondents cite the poor economic situation as the reason for their low support. A New York Times poll reported that Trump had 46% of popular support, leading Biden by 2%. In particular, among 18 to 29-year-old voters, 49% supported Trump, while 43% supported Biden. An NBC poll reported similar results: among young people, Trump led Biden, 46% to 42%. This is actually surprising, because in the 2022 midterms, Biden’s support from young people led Trump’s by 21%. Even this July, Biden still led Trump by 10%.

These media outlets blame the war in the Middle East and Biden’s policies for his slipping in the polls. After Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the U.S. led Western countries in supporting Israel. President Biden visited Israel as soon as he could to express support and deployed aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean.

Subsequent fierce Israeli counterattacks have killed 20,000 people in Gaza so far and displaced 1 million. This has caused the U.S. to adjust its position, hoping Israel will restrain its military and not deliberately massacre innocent people. The casualties are so high, however, because Hamas hides in crowded areas and uses people as human shields. So far, Israel has not relented and is maintaining that its ultimate goal is to destroy Hamas. In addition, Yemeni rebels have attacked ships belonging to several countries in the Red Sea, increasing oil and shipping prices. The war in the Middle East is growing.

Let’s look at Trump’s situation. He is currently entangled in lawsuits, and two states have issued decisions that bar Trump from appearing on the state’s Republican primary ballot. Whether this will affect his qualification to run for president remains to be seen. Still, his support within the Republican Party is completely overtaking that of the other candidates, putting him in a league of his own. And since his support increases with each new lawsuit, it is highly probable that Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee.

Trump’s populist tendencies have drawn the support of many non-mainstream voters. Similarly, in Europe, the issue of refugees is a problem that has led to a wave of populism that echoes that in the U.S. and has turned into a new wave in the Western world. Certain European leaders are thus already lamenting the nightmare that Trump’s return would bring. Trump has, for example, already opposed positions taken by the European Union and NATO, among others.

The uncertainty surrounding Trump will be a major variable affecting the trilateral U.S.-China-Taiwan relationship. Trump is a businessman who has little regard for ideology. Whether it will be easier for him to reach agreements with Beijing that affect Taiwan’s interests is worth further observation.

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