As you can see in the table below, the polling picture on who Americans trust to handle China is pretty hazy. One poll shows Biden with a 8-point lead over Trump on this question, while two others give him a more modest lead, and one gives Trump a narrow advantage.
Additionally, given that the U.S. is dealing with a major health crisis, an economic downturn and protests across the country, Beckley and Shirk both told me they were somewhat dubious of the idea that either Republicans or Democrats would be able to rally voters around China. Shirk said that unlike some other topics in the news, U.S. relations with China just aren’t as personal to voters. And Beckley said that given each candidate’s track record with China, he didn’t think either Trump or Biden would be able to use the issue much to their advantage.
“Even though the Trump administration can claim a lot of credit for altering U.S.-China policy and taking a harder-line turn, Trump has said a lot of nice things about Xi Jinping and has been willing to look the other way on China’s human rights violations,” said Beckley. And Republicans will likely paint Biden as belonging to an administration that had a “naive” approach toward China, Beckley said, “basically coddling a rising power.”