In an ugly, cantankerous presidential debate, one of the few things Donald Trump and Joe Biden agreed upon was China.
Both criticized the other for being too soft on Beijing, with Trump accusing Biden of being hoodwinked by China during his time as vice president, and Biden hitting Trump for saying “what a great job” Chinese President Xi Jinping was doing at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
But while Beijing would rather not be a topic at all in the United States election, and this rare consensus represents a growing anti-China strain in Washington, the debate as a whole will have raised spirits in the Chinese capital.
For decades, Beijing has criticized US-style democracy, holding up (very real) flaws in the American system as vindication for Chinese authoritarianism. Anyone advancing reform or liberalization in China is forced to answer for every failure in the US, and made to justify why that will be better than the Chinese system, which may not offer much in terms of representation, but at least provides stability and economic growth.
On Tuesday, Trump helped to bolster that view, and in turn, further erode global confidence in US-style democracy.