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The 2020 United States Presidential Election and Risks in China-U.S. Relations Seminar

August 18 , 2020 10:22 AM by iGCU

From 10 am to 12 am on August 18th, 2020, jointly organized by the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding (iGCU) of Peking University and the Intellisia Institute, the first session of the Seminar on 2020 United States Presidential Election and Risks in China-U.S. Relations was successfully held online. The seminar was entitled 2020 United States Presidential Election and Risks in China-U.S. Relations. Many well-known scholars and experts on American studies were invited to share and exchange views on the two major topics of this session, namely, "Joe Biden's pick for vice president" and "election predictions and possible risks in China-U.S. relations", and to discuss the nature of China-U.S. competition. The discussion was chaired by Wang Dong, Executive Director of the iGCU, and Chen Dingding, Director of the Intellisia Institute.

At the beginning of the seminar, Ni Feng, Academic Member of the iGCU of Peking University, Director of the Institute of American Studies of CASS and President of the Chinese Association of American Studies, delivers the keynote speech. Qi Haotian, Secretary-General of the iGCU, chaired the speech. Ni Feng pointed out that the new round of economic globalization that began after the end of the Cold War seems to be coming to an end under the dual impact of rising populism in the West and the COVID-19 outbreak. Accordingly, the logic of China-U.S. relations has undergone fundamental, reversed and subversive changes, from "inseparable and interdependent relations" to "neither better nor worse relations", then to "decoupling" with competition outweighing cooperation. Since the establishment of contact between China and the United States, this is the first time that both sides have simultaneously regarded each other as the primary competitor, and China-U.S. relations have become uncharted. Ni Feng also introduced several profound changes in China-U.S. relations reflected in the presidential election: first, in the past, topics concerning China were derivative in the internal affairs of the United States, but China-U.S. relations have become completely dominant in the 2020 presidential election; second, despite the fierce partisanship in this election, both parties have reached a basic consensus on China issues; and third, Trump's extraordinary aggression towards China has even spurred the rise of his approval rating.

Ni Feng, Academic Member of the iGCU of Peking University, Director of the Institute of American Studies of CASS and President of the Chinese Association of American Studies, delivers the keynote speech.


Later, the first session of the seminar was officially started when the participants discussed Joe Biden's pick for vice president and policies toward China. Song Guoyou, Deputy Director of the Center for American Studies of Fudan University, said that the nomination of the vice president has actually had little impact on Biden's team, but it may have more positive implications for China-U.S. relations. California's hi-tech industry is closely related to China's hi-tech industry. Therefore, Biden and Kamala Harris are likely to relax restrictions on China in economic and trade policies, which will have a positive impact on China-U.S. economic and trade relations. Moreover, American studies are likely to return to the traditional Democratic perspective rather than the personal perspective of Trump. In addition, under the structural influence of intensified China-U.S. competition, the general development direction of China-U.S. relations will not change significantly due to party affiliation. Some issues are likely to be loosened, while others are likely to be tightened.

Song Guoyou, Deputy Director of the Center for American Studies of Fudan University, delivers a speech


Zuo Xiying, Associate Professor of the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China, made an assessment on the Biden administration's policies, calling them an "enhanced version of Obama's" that will be more aggressive towards China with stronger values and more emphasis on international norms. Specifically, this is mainly reflected in five aspects: China and the United States will return to the era of uniting allies, and China's relations with its neighbors will face more severe challenges; China-U.S. relations will return to the tradition of democracy and human rights, and the United States will exert more pressure on Xinjiang and Hong Kong issues in the future; greater importance will be attached to multilateralism, and the U.S. will try to build a rules-based international order; in terms of the economy, influenced by Trump, the United States may exert more pressure on China in the hi-tech field and focus more on intellectual property protection; and China and the United States may cooperate on the climate issue.

Zuo Xiying, Associate Professor of the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China


In the second session of the seminar, the experts predicted the election result and analyzed possible risks in China-U.S. relations. Wang Dong, Executive Director of the iGCU, held that even if Biden wins the election, China-U.S. relations cannot become as harmonious as they were before, but they can be more rational and pragmatic with less hawkish aggression and greater emphasis on multilateralism. This means that Biden's strategies towards China are more likely to shift from Trump's containment strategies to hedging.

Wang Dong, Executive Director of the iGCU, Vice-Minister of Office of Humanities and Social Sciences in Peking University.


Zhao Minghao, part-time Research Fellow of the iGCU and Research Fellow of the China Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, suggested that attention should be paid to three important periods: the next three months; the competition between the two parties after the election on November 3rd; and the internal integration of the Democratic Party if Biden comes into office in January 2021. In addition, he warned that the election result needs to be treated with caution. No matter who wins the election, the continuity of U.S. policies towards China will outweigh the antagonism. Even if China-U.S. relations are eased slightly, the essence of U.S. policies will not change and the complexity will not diminish.

Zhao Minghao, part-time Research Fellow of the IGCU and Research Fellow of the China Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, delivers a speech


In the Q&A session of the seminar, the participants asked the experts questions about such topics of high concern as election strategies and the red line of China-U.S. relations. The experts gave further answers on the basis of the topics of the seminar, and expressed their belief that polls cannot be regarded as reliable indicators of the final result. Biden needs people to go out and vote, while technical issues in this election play into the hands of Trump. He should judge whether China has exercised restraint in China-U.S. conflicts, prepare for the continued repression of the United States in the next stage, adapt to the rules of the conflicts and strike a balance between daring to struggle and being good at fighting.


After the Q&A session, Wang Dong, Executive Director of the iGCU, reviewed the highlighted achievements of the seminar and summarized the consensus reached on how to strengthen bottom-line awareness and maintain strategic focus and endurance in the face of unprecedented challenges to China-U.S. relations.

In the future, the iGCU of Peking University and the Intellisia Institute will continue to exchange intellectual views and insights on "2020 United States Presidential Election and Risks in China-U.S. Relations", pay close attention to the presidential election and China-U.S. relations through scientific research cooperation, platform building and forum organization, and pool efforts to produce outstanding achievements in American studies and contribute ideas to China's diplomacy with the United States in the new era. We welcome friends from all walks of life to continue to focus on the seminars jointly held by the iGCU of Peking University and the Intellisia Institute.