News roundup: Did China just ‘win’ the U.S. election?

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Did China just ‘win’ the U.S. election?

The world is reeling after the upset victory by Donald Trump over heavily favored rival Hillary Clinton, with Asian markets dipping sharply as a Trump win looked increasingly likely during Wednesday morning in the region. Trump’s unpredictable character makes his ultimate effect on U.S.-China relations, and on China’s position in the region, difficult to forecast.

“Trump’s ascendancy to the White House delivers the sharpest blow yet to the forces of globalization that propelled China’s rise,” writes Andrew Browne in The Wall Street Journal. “The world’s most consequential bilateral relationship now faces an extended period of uncertainty and tension.”

Another must-read piece on the fallout is this one by James Palmer, the newly appointed Asia editor at Foreign Policy magazine. He notes four victories scored by Beijing in this election: for China’s vision of geopolitics in East Asia; for the legitimacy of Chinese authoritarianism; for the country’s criticisms of America’s human rights record; and, finally, for its case against Western media credibility. Other sources have stated that a trade war with China, in which escalating tit-for-tat tariffs on steel, rare earth metals and other goods could lead to economic crisis, is considered by many commentators as one of the major foreign policy crises “almost certain to erupt” under the Trump presidency.

Beijing has long sought to portray the U.S. presidential election as a circus, or, as Palmer puts it, “an absurdity, the equivalent of picking a major company’s CEO through a horse race,” and Chinese state media wasted no time in capitalizing on the result to sow distrust of Western democracy. The South China Morning Post reports that the Communist Party played up the angle of division between the “traditional elite” and middle and lower classes while limiting live coverage of votes being counted.

While the result is a boon to Beijing’s efforts at delegitimizing Western democracy, Trump was not necessarily China’s top choice. Many observers suggested that China’s leaders would have preferred Clinton, a known figure and consistently hard negotiator, rather than a candidate whose “lack of a governance track record” and “unorthodox take on long-held Republican priorities could prove a headache for Chinese officials.”

For his part, Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a measured message to the American president-elect: “I place great importance on the China-U.S. relationship, and look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Xi said, according to state media reports.

Other, mostly non-Trump-related headlines can be found below.



  • Beijing’s intervention in Hong Kong election could face a hurdle: local courts / NYT
    Lawyers and legal experts in Hong Kong hope that the city’s judiciary will be able to apply legal precedent to modify the impact of Beijing’s latest interpretation of the city’s charge, allowing two pro-independence lawmakers to take office.
  • Opinion: China bullies Hong Kong / NYT
    “Beijing’s unilateral move was a heavy-handed attempt to silence democratic voices,” writes the editorial board of The New York Times. “And it raised new questions about China’s willingness to reinterpret agreements for its own benefit.”
  • Opinion: Why China doesn’t understand Hong Kong / Bloomberg
    “If Xi aspires to restore his government’s damaged image among the city’s youth, he needs to look back to earlier leaders like Deng, who were open to outside opinions and willing to shake up an aging gerontocracy,” writes Adam Minter. “Only then will the Chinese government have the capacity to understand and respond to the concerns of the Chinese people, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere.”
  • China passes law to ensure films ‘serve the people and socialism’ / The Guardian
    The long-awaited new law, which has been in the works since 2011, will take effect on March 1, 2017, and is intended to promote the development of the domestic movie industry.