Expect Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to escalate US-China tit-for-tat this year, with Hong Kong caught in the middle

  • Both Trump and Xi are likely to deflect attention from the challenges at home by taking a hard line on the other’s country
  • With an election looming, Trump must take Xi to task on Hong Kong even though this is only likely to steel Xi’s resolve

South China Morning Post
Date: 9 Jun, 2020
By: Allen Carlson

Illustration: Craig Stephens

The Covid-19 pandemic, its impact on the American economy, and the protests that have erupted over the murder of George Floyd have rocked the Trump administration. US President Donald Trump has been left scrambling to develop a strategy that will prevent him from suffering the humiliation of being the first incumbent since George H.W. Bush to not win a second term in office.Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has also been confronted with a slowing economy and questions regarding his country’s initial response to the Covid-19 epidemic, while facing ongoing grass-roots opposition in Hong Kong. And he too has recently sought to turn each of these challenges into opportunities to demonstrate his resolve to the Chinese people.

Both leaders then are increasingly viewing their rivals across the Pacific solely from within the prism of bolstering their rule at home. It is a particularly dark – and dangerous – looking glass. For Trump, China is the dragon against which he can prove himself deserving of four more years in the White House, while for Xi it appears that America is the eagle to defy to signal his country’s rise on the world stage.

Attacking China during the hurly-burly of the presidential election cycle is nothing new for candidates from either party. What is novel is that American politics is more divided now than it has been in decades and with the US president more mercurial than any of his recent predecessors, foreign policy strategy has been replaced by presidential whim.Criticising the US, and asserting independence, has also long been a staple of Chinese foreign policy. But, at the same time, Xi seems significantly less concerned than those who immediately preceded him at the helm of the Chinese/ state – 6Hu Jintao, and before him, Jiang Zemin – over how the world will react to his heavy-handed attempts to resolve the steep challenges it faces.
[FULL  STORY]

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