Six months ago the Chinese walked away from the trade negotiations.
The move caught nearly everyone by surprise.
After all, the negotiations had been going on, with increasing intensity, almost since President Trump took office. And they had made significant progress by early 2019.
By March, the draft trade agreement had reached an impressive 150 single-spaced pages. In it, the Communist regime promised to abandon many of its predatory practices, from currency manipulation and the theft of intellectual property, to the forced transfer of technology and its secret subsidies to its hi-tech companies.
Beijing even appeared ready to back these promised structural changes by agreeing to actual enforcement provisions similar to those imposed on North Korea. The draft called for heavy penalties to be imposed on Chinese companies, or levied on China itself, if the agreement was violated.
The diplomatic cable that arrived in Washington late on May 3 changed everything. The draft agreement had been gutted. Section after section had been crossed out. Americans who saw it said that Beijing was reneging on nearly all the concessions it had earlier made.
Had China’s trade negotiators been negotiating in bad faith all along?
Perhaps. After all, Beijing has a long history of duplicitous behavior.
But I think the real reason that China backtracked is named “Joe Biden.” The former vice president had just ended months of speculation over his political future by announcing he was running for president on April 25.
The Chinese blew up the negotiations a few days later.
They did it because they had decided to run out the clock on President Donald Trump’s first term, convinced that they would get a much better deal from a future President Biden.
The Chinese side had every reason to expect that Biden, in return for a few empty promises, would quickly set aside the Trump tariffs that were devastating the Chinese economy. The former VP has a long history of being a friendly voice for the U.S.- China relations. Like former President Barack Obama, he would turn a blind eye to the theft of American jobs, factories, and intellectual property to an increasingly arrogant and rapacious Chinese regime.
Beijing had another reason to bet on Biden: they had compromised him by entering into shady deals with his immediate family.
As Peter Schweitzer has documented in his book “Secret Empires,” the Vice President took his son Hunter along when he visited Beijing in December 2013. Not long after the father and son duo returned to the United States, Hunter Biden’s small firm received a one-billion-dollar private equity deal from the Chinese regime. This was later increased to a cool one-and-a-half billion.
As Schweitzer wrote, “The Chinese Government was literally funding a business that it co-owned along with the sons of two of America’s most powerful decision makers.”
Now you see why Beijing was convinced that they had Joe Biden in their pocket.
Where they missed the mark was in assuming that he would be the next president of the United States.
Over the past six months it has become painfully clear to everyone, but Grandpa Joe himself, that it is time for him to retire. He will be almost 80 by the time the election rolls around, if the grueling demands of a presidential campaign don’t do him in first.
He is a dud on the hustings, uttering inanities, pawing women, and running into things—when he bothers to show up at all. His gaffes are legendary, such as his recent reference to “record players,” a device from the past century that few under the age of 30 have even laid eyes on.
Even China’s leaders, who were probably among the “world leaders” who Biden claims “encouraged him to run,” are having second thoughts.
How do we know?
Because they have come back to the negotiating table, eager to pick up where they left off six months ago.
Only, thanks to Trump, the tariffs are a little higher now and the terms of any future agreement will be a little tougher.
As Vice President Mike Pence said on Sept. 19, the United States will continue to insist that China make significant reforms to its economic system, including abandoning trade barriers, forced technology transfers, and predatory subsidies for ‘national champion’ businesses.
And if no agreement is reached by the time of the 2020 election, Trump himself has made it clear that Beijing will have an even steeper hill to climb.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s “Dream” is the New Threat to World Order.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.