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It doesn't matter who wins the election. US-China relations could worsen anyway, experts say

Rhetoric from both U.S. presidential candidates toward China does not look promising for the future of Sino-U.S. relations, according to some observers.

Wang Huiyao, founder and president at Center for China & Globalization, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that certain remarks, such as GOP nominee Donald Trump's promise to levy a high tariff on Chinese imports, were likely received negatively in China.

Trump pledged to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports as president, and vowed to an audience in Pennsylvania in October to label the country as a currency manipulator.

Trade was crucial to strengthening relations between Beijing and Washington, according to Wang. "We have the largest bilateral trade in the world and this trade (deal) has benefited both the Chinese and the U.S."

U.S. government data showed that between January and September, China was the largest trading partner, accounting for 15.4 percent of total trade of goods.

Sino-U.S. ties have generally been stable but have had moments of tension when both countries clashed over their global influence. In recent years, that relationship was strained due to contentions in the South China Sea, a critical maritime passage, which led to the two powers ramping up their military capabilities, including nuclear weaponry and anti-ballistic missiles in June.

Tom Rafferty, regional manager for China at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said in a statement on Monday that U.S. foreign policy under a Hillary Clinton administration would "retain an uneasy truce" and could eventually worsen relations.

Rafferty said Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was seen as "more hawkish" in her foreign policy than Barack Obama, implying the South China Sea issue could potentially escalate tensions further.


"(She) has made clear her support for bolstering the U.S. military presence in the South and East China Seas," Rafferty pointed out, but said it was unlikely to push the two nations into open conflict.

Clinton also had a history of criticizing the Chinese government on a number of issues, particularly human rights - something that has irked Beijing in the past.

The choice between a Clinton or a Trump presidency was similar to deciding between "the lesser of the two evils" for the Chinese government, Rafferty told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Tuesday.

A Clinton administration would be predictable to the Chinese because they have had dealings with Clinton before, whereas moves from a Trump administration would more difficult to estimate, said Rafferty.

Both candidates also oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal between the U.S. and 11 countries in the Pacific region reached last year to liberalize trade, set common trade standards and cut barriers.

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While China was left out of the TPP deal, it launched its own initiatives including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to exert influence in Asia Pacific.

If the TPP is ultimately rejected by the next U.S. president, Wang said it could open the door for the two countries to work together to iron out a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement, something he said some regional leaders had been asking for.

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