It's all about trade for China — and trade is about hitting economic growth targets at home and being a technology leader abroad.
The stormy commercial relationship between the world's two biggest economies since President Donald Trump took office is front and center in China's view of the U.S. election. While a win for Democratic challenger Joe Biden offers no guarantee of relief, Beijing hopes to avoid a further deterioration and see negotiations put on an even keel.
"People are concerned. They want to know what their future is to be," said investor and prominent blogger Ding Chenling. "Whoever is the U.S. president has no choice: They will have to do business with China."
Trump seized on longstanding concerns about Chinese commercial espionage, the forced handover of technology, and state subsidies for Chinese companies. He elevated them into a high-stakes tariff war launched in 2018, and last year tightened controls on Chinese purchases of computer chips and other high-tech components.
That could place a drag on China's ambitions to be a global leader in cutting edge technologies and build, as it calls it, a "moderately prosperous society" at home, although the loss of access to U.S. technology is also motivating a drive for self-sufficiency.
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Meanwhile, Trump's vow that China would pay for allegedly cheating the U.S. consumer has yet to yield more balanced trade.
September exports to the U.S. rose 20.5% over a year ago to $44 billion as China's factories continued to assemble most of the world's smartphones, personal computers and consumer electronics, along with much of the clothing, housewares and toys sold in the U.S.
That means that, despite disruptions from trade tension and the pandemic, the ruling Communist Party is likely to hit its economic targets for the time being. Still, calming the stormy seas of trade could provide the long-term assurance Beijing's leaders seek.
"I believe Joe Biden would ease relations," said Qu Zhan, a Beijing health care worker.