American voters in Hong Kong on Wednesday watched closely as the results of the US presidential election came in, many hoping Joe Biden would beat President Donald Trump, leading to a more thoughtful foreign policy approach.
Regardless of the outcome, American expats believe US-China relations, which are at their lowest level in decades, would not change drastically, nor would Hong Kong’s interests be taken into consideration.
Hong Kong protesters and some prominent opposition figures were rooting for Trump for his tougher stance on China, but US voters were doubtful a second Trump term would benefit the city.
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McSorley’s Ale House, in the city’s Central district, was packed at lunchtime with more than 20 people tuning in to watch live television coverage as results were announced.
Most took the day off work to attend viewing parties, hosted by a handful of bars and country clubs across the city.
“This is certainly the most important election of my life,” said Ronald, a 35-year-old who only gave his first name. “Donald Trump has done a lot of damage to the United States and the world. I fear that if he is allowed to continue, the damage he causes won’t be repairable.”
The American was pessimistic about the future of US-China relations, and said he thought Trump’s approach to foreign policy had damaged the US’ standing globally.
“At the very least, Biden will be thoughtful and conduct diplomacy on somewhere that isn’t Twitter,” he said.
Professor Jed Kaplan, 48, said the election results, which had the election much closer than opinion polls suggested it would be, had caught him off guard.
“Florida has really shocked me,” he said. “More than 5 million people supported the president when his policies are clearly against their interests.”
Kaplan, an associate professor in the University of Hong Kong’s earth sciences department, was equally pessimistic as others about US-China relations, but believed “the world would be safer” with a president who believed in international cooperation.
In the pub crowded with Biden supporters, 36-year-old Harry Carsch was alone in rooting for Trump, even though he had some strong reservations.
“I tend to support Trump, so I might be in the minority here,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that because Biden is not Trump, then he is the best candidate.”
Carsch, who is returning to the US next week, felt most of what Trump has been blamed for “can’t be all laid at his feet”.
However, he admitted Trump’s stance towards China and Hong Kong was short-sighted and without merit.
“Trump’s heart was in the right place, trying to put America in a better economic position, but the execution was very flawed,” he said. “[US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, in particular, seemed to take a lot of aim at Hong Kong which wasn’t necessarily productive.”
This year’s presidential election might have attracted the attention of Hong Kong protesters, with Trump publicly siding with them, and acting to punish Beijing for its response to last year’s civil unrest.
But some American voters in Hong Kong believed the city was just a pawn in Trump’s campaign to be re-elected.
Maryellen van der Veen, 23, described Trump’s stance towards China as “not productive”.
“He uses China as a scapegoat and he might use Hong Kong as a motivation for that, but his motivations are economic and it’s not good for any of the countries,” she said.
Juliet Levesqua, 22, believed Trump was not genuinely interested in the welfare of Hongkongers and “doesn’t actually care about the people here”, while Ashley Scher, 37, said Trump saw the city as a bargaining chip in his negotiations with China.
Scher said a Biden presidency would be far more beneficial to Hong Kong from “a human rights perspective”.
“A Biden administration might take a much stronger interest in what’s going on in Hong Kong,” she said. “What’s happened, is there’s just been silence on Hong Kong from the US. If we changed administration, we might have a more forceful response, which has been absent.”
In Taipei, the Brass Monkey bar was packed with American expats and locals watching election coverage at an event organised by the Democrats Abroad Taiwan.
“We hope to win once every vote is counted,” John Eastwood, the group’s chairman, said. “The democratic process needs to be followed and we expect the American people to reject Trump’s racism, corruption, and incompetence.”
Others gathered at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, where one Taiwanese member was hoping for a Trump victory.
“I hope Trump can be re-elected as this would mean a closer US-Taiwan relationship and firmer security partnership, given the strong support he has given to Taiwan since he was first elected in 2016,” said Linda, who only gave her first name.
This article In Hong Kong and Taiwan, US voters watch and wait as nail-biting election plays out on TV first appeared on South China Morning Post