Will China gain from President Biden’s reelection campaign?

Hounded by significant policy problems, the U.S. leader is making nice with struggling China in hopes of boosting his chances in 2024.

Cartoon with Biden, Trump and Xi
China stands to gain a lot from the rapprochement offer from President Biden as he pursues reelection. © GIS – This cartoon is available for sale in our shop.

The United States appears unable to put forth functional candidates for the 2024 presidential election aside from Joe Biden, the incumbent who is 81 years old and showing his frailty, and former President Donald Trump, who himself is 77 years old. That makes the world wonder. European leaders are particularly concerned about the prospect of another term for Mr. Trump.

But is this oft-repeated view of the situation actually true? Indeed, the Republicans have the problem that the former president has such a strong base of popular support that other Republican candidates may not be able to win the race without Mr. Trump’s endorsement. However, there are viable contenders in the GOP, such as Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations. One should not prematurely discard their potential.

Then, there are the Democrats and the scores of people who are busy making policies in the administration of President Biden. They would prefer to stay put and are worried that voters will not give another term to a president with such an advanced age. The notion of a Trump comeback also petrifies the White House. It may appear that the Democrats have no alternatives to field in the 2024 race, which is hard to believe.

President Biden’s crew – people like the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Jared Bernstein, who chairs the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers or Secretary of State Antony Blinken – can be expected to do their utmost to ensure the continuation of the presidency with the same, or similar, players. That matters for both domestic and foreign affairs. But could some successes by the current administration pave the way for a candidate endorsed by Mr. Biden? There are potential prospects to head a new Democratic ticket, such as governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Gavin Newsom of California.

The scourge of Bidenomics

The situation is hardly unusual, not only for the U.S., as administrations elsewhere often find themselves in tough spots in electoral campaigns. The difference is that everything the U.S. does has a global impact. And now, the Western superpower is witnessing the emergence of a rival in Asia.

Over the next 11 months, the Biden Administration will strive to show success. What could that look like?

The president’s age is not his administration’s only problem; there is also the economy. “Bidenomics,” a policy based on massive government spending, has led to high employment rates and a heated economy but has also helped trigger a burst of inflation. The U.S. Federal Reserve managed to temper inflation by raising interest rates, but American consumers have lost significant purchasing power. As a result, citizens see Bidenomics in a negative light. Aside from the usual winners and losers, there is a general pessimism regarding future prosperity in the U.S.

The lack of quality leadership is a global problem today.

Many think it would be good to improve the U.S.-China relationship. The trade war, in which both Washington and Beijing slam punitive tariffs, embargoes and regulatory barriers on each other’s products and services, has not gone over well with consumers. The saber-rattling around Taiwan and the South China Sea is also concerning. Overall, the public probably favors the de-escalation that the Biden administration has pursued since earlier this year.

The enthusiasm for supporting Ukraine’s struggle against Russian aggression is visibly cooling in Washington. The Americans would like to see solutions to recent violent conflicts, not only in Eastern Europe but also in the Middle East. Dialing down – even temporarily – these conflicts and the costly support for Ukraine would help the Democrats’ electoral campaign. 

The public is also demanding an effective government response to the tragedies generated by a new illicit drug, Fentanyl. The precursors for this synthetic opioid, which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and was responsible for about 200 overdose deaths every day in the U.S. in 2022, come mainly from China. 

The lack of quality leadership is a global problem today. In China – the world’s second-largest economy and the only other superpower – President Xi Jinping is facing mounting difficulties. Chinese citizens’ savings have been eroding, and their dwindling purchasing power jeopardizes the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party and Mr. Xi’s position in particular. 

Even though geopolitical and systemic fundamentals doom the U.S. and China to remain rivals, the Biden administration and the Xi regime can toss each other a lifesaver: on the one hand, the U.S. can help the Chinese save the regime’s authority, and on the other, China can help ease the Biden administration’s reelection bid. 

The meeting of the two presidents in San Francisco this November showed a mutual desire to ease tensions. More controversial issues, such as Taiwan, were not really addressed.

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