Editor’s note for Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A note from the editor of today's SupChina Access newsletter.

My thoughts today:

Kamala Harris, the California senator who Joe Biden has picked to be his vice presidential running mate in the November election against Donald Trump, appears to be a moderate Democrat when it comes to China policy.

“I am not a protectionist Democrat,” she said at a primary debate in September 2019. This contrasted her with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who regularly rail against free trade deals, and Pete Buttigieg and even Andrew Yang, who had said they might not immediately remove tariffs on China if they became president.

Unsurprisingly, her disapproval of tariffs is in line with Biden, who recently told NPR:

Manufacturing’s gone on recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay. We’re going after China in the wrong way.

Neither Biden nor Harris have ever made firm commitments to immediately repeal the tariffs that Trump put on Chinese imports. Both of the candidates have a record of sounding familiar notes raising concern about intellectual property and human rights, and about working with international allies to pressure China, according to our election tracker. Note: We updated that tracker through the de facto end of the primary season, in late February, by which time Harris had been out of the race for several months — see her file by clicking on the “List of dropped-out candidates” at the bottom of the article.

In other words: Harris doesn’t seem to have any particularly strong feelings about China, and seems to be against tariffs, but doesn’t go into specifics either way. There remains a considerable amount of uncertainty about how a Biden-Harris administration would change U.S.-China relations.

Stop press! This just in: “The State Department plans to announce as soon as Thursday that Confucius Institutes in the U.S. — many of which are based on college campuses — will need to register as ‘foreign missions,’ according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified,” reports Bloomberg.

Our word of the day is Communist nobility (共产党权贵 gòngchǎndǎng quánguì).

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief