Trump administration U.S. – China relations

Written by  //  August 28, 2017  //  China, Geopolitics, U.S.  //  No comments

See also: North Korea
China Seas /2

28 August
Stephen S. Roach: America and China’s Codependency Trap
(Project Syndicate) Seemingly at odds with the world, US President Donald Trump has once again raised the possibility of a trade conflict with China. On August 14, he instructed the US Trade Representative to commence investigating Chinese infringement of intellectual property rights. By framing this effort under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974, the Trump administration could impose high and widespread tariffs on Chinese imports.
This is hardly an inconsequential development. While there may well be merit to the allegations, as documented in the latest “USTR Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance,” punitive action would have serious consequences for US businesses and consumers. Like it or not, that is an inevitable result of the deeply entrenched codependent relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
In a codependent human relationship, when one party alters the terms of engagement, the other feels scorned and invariably responds in kind. The same can be expected of economies and their leaders.

14 August
U.S.-China relations, 6 months into the Trump presidency
Still in search of a strategy
(Brookings) Until a strategy is set, there will continue to be confused and conflicting messages from different quarters of the United States government on China, disagreement and sloppiness on proper sequencing of actions, and limits to our ability to elicit Chinese cooperation, as Beijing hesitates to commit to U.S. initiatives because of uncertainty over the steadfastness and coherence of U.S. policy.The Trump administration has not presented a coherent public explanation of how it views China, what kind of relationship it seeks to cultivate, or how it plans to do so.
(Quartz) Trump ramps up trade pressure on China. The president is expected to order an investigation into China’s allegedly unfair trade practices, including things like forcing US firms in China to hand over intellectual property. An investigation could ultimately lead to steep tariffs.
(NYT)  President Trump is expected to announce the opening salvo in what could become a far-reaching investigation into Chinese trade practices — but he runs the risk of alienating Beijing just when he needs help with North Korea.As China’s technological ambition grows, it is trying to shed its reputation for fake gadgets and pirated software, and get ready for a day when it must defend its own intellectual property against rival economies.

24 July
George Friedman: US-China Trade Talks Collapse and It’s North Korea’s Fault
(Mauldin Economics) The United States and China met to discuss trade issues. The meeting ended without agreement on anything. The obligatory joint press conference after the talks, where everyone pretends that everything was fine, was canceled. The only comment came from a U.S. official who said there were frank discussions, which means that the talks were tough and full of threats.
China has clearly failed to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear program. There are two possible explanations for this.
The first is that North Korea doesn’t trust China but does trust that having a nuclear weapon would block any American attempts to destabilize the North Korean regime.
The second possible explanation is that China did not want to persuade North Korea this time. The reason is simple: Although China cares a great deal about trade, it cares much more right now about its geopolitical balance with the United States. North Korea has the United States on a hook. If the U.S. chooses not to attack North Korea, it would appear weak, and China would in turn look stronger. And if the U.S. chooses to attack, it could be portrayed as a lawless aggressor. In a full-scale attack, the U.S. would likely take out North Korea’s nuclear program, and China would be spared that problem. China would then claim that it had been busy mediating, and had nearly reached a deal, when the American cowboys struck.

16 April

China is paralyzed on looming North Korea threat. Will Trump show restraint?
By Charles Burton, associate professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., and a former counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing
(Globe & Mail) Many see two factors behind China’s reluctance to move on North Korea: 1) fear of North Korean refugees flooding into China as the DPRK regime implodes, and 2) fear of the geopolitical implications of a U.S.-oriented reunited Korea on China’s northeast border. But one wonders if this is a complete explanation. First of all, China has massive resources to control its border with the Korean peninsula. Second, a reunified Korea would likely ally itself with China, as the strategic need for U.S. military presence in Korea would be eliminated.
In fact, the key to China’s policy of non-action on the Korea threat lies more in Chinese domestic factors. The reason China characterizes its relations with the DPRK as “close as lips and teeth” is because the two nations share the same political and social institutions inherited from Stalin’s Russia and a long history of very close collaboration between the Chinese and North Korean communist parties and military elites.
… the post-Kim fallout of a German-like reunification of Korea would be profoundly politically destabilizing for China. The opening of the secret police files and the seeking of redress by the politically wronged, followed by the inevitable public trials for corruption and political venality of China’s “lips and teeth” North Korean political and military elite would trigger huge interest among citizens of China. Parallels to the Chinese system would be too closely drawn for the Chinese Communist Party leadership to explain away, and the threat this poses to mainland Chinese political stability could well be the beginning of the end of the Chinese Communist Party’s single-party authoritarian rule. Moreover, the files would likely show PRC regime complicity in a lot of matters relating to the DPRK that would severely debase China’s international prestige.

Donald Trump is making the same deal with China that Barack Obama did
(Quartz) President Donald Trump shared a little insight into US foreign policy after North Korea’s fizzled missile test [with this tweet on Sunday 16 April]:
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!”:
This helps explain two recent reversals that baffled Trump watchers in recent days: Following a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the president said he would no longer accuse China of subsidizing its currency to make its exports more competitive, and revealed a more nuanced understanding of China’s leverage over North Korea than he displayed on the campaign trail.

15 April
Trump and Xi: Sherpas, not summits, make the difference
(South China Morning Post) At several other meetings planned for the two leaders this year, key policy wonks could help Beijing and Washington build stronger-than-ever bilateral trade relations
Predicting the outcome of major summits is not an exact science. And the Mar-a-Lago huddle between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump is no different.
Summits, as Henry Kissinger would say, embody “high politics”, by way of the history-altering dynamics they unleash. In case of Mar-a-Lago, a 100-day programme has been rolled out to improve Sino-US trade, four channels have been formed to discuss security, economic policy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges. And Xi and Trump have agreed to meet again this year. Significant, but could they be the stuff history is made of?

Trump and Xi handshake

7 April
Donald Trump hails friendship with China’s Xi as missiles head to Syria
US president talks of ‘great relationship’ with China but timing of Syria attack likely to create anger and fear, say experts
(The Guardian) a rapidly escalating crisis in Syria threatened to overshadow their long-awaited meeting as Trump ordered cruise missile strikes in response to the deadly chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun.
China, which alongside Russia has repeatedly opposed UN resolutions against Assad, did not immediately respond to Trump’s move but experts said it was likely to be both angered and impressed by the strikes.
Bonnie Glaser, an expert in Chinese foreign policy, said Beijing would view Trump’s strikes as proof he was not afraid of taking bold military action, a reality that had potential implications both in North Korea and the South China Sea.
It was not immediately clear if the Chinese president had been given advance warning of the strikes on Syria.
… experts say the public enthusiasm masks profound suspicions and even animosity and believe the behind-the-scenes conversations have the potential to be far less cordial.
“The Trump administration is deeply distrustful of China,” said Ashley Townshend, a University of Sydney academic who wrote a recent report on the billionaire’s plans for Asia. “They view China as a strategic competitor that needs to be checked with American power because it is taking advantage of the United States. These views run deep in the administration, they run deep among key advisers.”

2 April
China Learns How to Get Trump’s Ear: Through Jared Kushner
(NYT) China’s courtship of Mr. Kushner, which has coincided with the marginalization of the State Department in the Trump administration, reflects a Chinese comfort with dynastic links. Mr. Xi is himself a “princeling”: His father was Xi Zhongxun, a major figure in the Communist revolution who was later purged by Mao Zedong.
While administration officials confirm that Mr. Kushner is deeply involved in China relations, they insist that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has taken the lead on policy and made many of the decisions on the choreography and agenda of the meeting at Mar-a-Lago.
By inviting Mr. Xi to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s “Southern White House,” the president is conferring on him the same status as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who spent two days in Florida, playing golf with the president and responding to a crisis after North Korea tested a ballistic missile. Such a gesture is particularly valuable, experts said, given that China is not an ally like Japan.

31 March
Trump’s Meeting with China’s Xi Is Risky with U.S. Asia Policy Up in the Air
By Michael Fuchs, former deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs
Whatever the policy direction few in Asia (or anywhere else, for that matter) have faith that Trump will honor the long-standing commitments of the United States. And whatever smiling faces the photo ops portray or how many high-level trips are made to Asia, this dynamic will sap U.S. credibility and will dominate conversations in the offices of prime ministers and presidents around the world.

30 March
Trump Anticipates a ‘Very Difficult’ Meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping
(TIME) Trump predicted “a very difficult” meeting in a tweet just hours after both governments announced the summit. He wrote in part: “We can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.”
The relationship between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 economies has been uncertain following the election of Trump, who accused China during his campaign of unfair trade practices and threatened to raise import taxes on Chinese goods and declare Beijing a currency manipulator.
It is unclear whether Trump will follow through with either threat. He is now seeking Beijing’s help in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missiles programs. China is North Korea’s most important source of diplomatic support and economic assistance.

19 March
Tillerson ends China trip with warm words from President Xi
(Globe & Mail) China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and the U.S. decision to base an advanced missile defence system in South Korea.
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions towards self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, with the Trump administration crafting a big new arms package for the island that is bound to anger China.
But meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, those issues were brushed aside by Xi and Tillerson, at least in front of reporters, with Xi saying Tillerson had made a lot of efforts to achieve a smooth transition in a new era of relations.
“You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this,” Xi said.

24 January
Michael Den Tandt: Batten the hatches — China and the U.S. poised to clash as never before
all the signals coming from senior Trump administration officials — from the president himself, with his Taiwan-friendly Tweets, on down — are not of waning interest in the Pacific region, but waxing. Only rather than the softish power of multilateral trade ties, the primary instrument of American power projection will be military — aircraft carriers and nuclear deterrence.
(National Post) The president’s executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, far from pulling America back from the Pacific region, sets the stage for an old-fashioned superpower standoff there.
Long before the TPP (which had comprised Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Mexico and Peru, Canada and the United States) ran afoul of right-wing nativists and left-wing populists in the United States, it was an Obama administration strategy for containing the increasingly impatient regional muscle-flexing of Communist China.
The U.S. Navy is the guarantor of last resort for international law and international shipping through the South China Sea, worth an estimated US$5-trillion annually. China is attempting to assert a claim over much of that open ocean, contained by its so-called nine-dash line, as well as a group of small islets in the East China Sea in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture.
Chinese incursions into territory long claimed by its neighbours have become commonplace in recent years, causing Japan to re-garrison its farthest-flung islands. Regional nerves have been further frayed by the People’s Liberation Army’s rapid building of various regional shoals and reefs into what appear to be air strips and fuel depots.

10 February
Trump changes tack, backs ‘one China’ policy in call with Xi
(Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump changed tack and agreed to honor the “one China” policy during a phone call with China’s leader Xi Jinping, a major diplomatic boost for Beijing which brooks no criticism of its claim to self-ruled Taiwan.
Trump angered Beijing in December by talking to the president of Taiwan and saying the United States did not have to stick to the policy, under which Washington acknowledges the Chinese position that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of it.
A White House statement said Trump and Chinese President Xi had a lengthy phone conversation on Thursday night, Washington time.
“President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy,” the statement said.

20 January
China now the unlikely champion of free trade in the Trump era
(Globe & Mail) Here stood the authoritarian successor to thousands of years of cloistered imperial rule addressing the distillation of the Western liberal approach that populates the World Economic Forum at Davos, the annual Swiss mingling of titans, stars, soothsayers and heavyweights.
But this year, it was a crowd freighted with fear, searching for comfort from the spectre of Donald Trump taking office and, plank by plank – a tariff here, a torn-up trade deal there – disassembling the global trade structure that has dominated the latter half of the postwar era.
No wonder, then, that Mr. Xi commanded rapt attention with his presentation of China as the new guardian of borderless trade and custodian-in-chief of international priorities, a responsible and reliable new global leader for the Trump age.

12 December 2016
China warns Trump against ignoring its Taiwan interests
(Reuters) China expressed “serious concern” on Monday after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its long-held stance that Taiwan is part of “one China”, calling it the basis for relations.
Trump’s comments on “Fox News Sunday”, questioning nearly four decades of U.S. policy, came after he prompted a diplomatic protest from China over his decision to accept a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 2.
China’s Foreign Ministry said cooperation was “out of the question” if Washington could not recognize Beijing’s core interest on Taiwan, indicating it would reject any effort by Trump to use the issue as a bargaining chip in a long list of commercial and security problems facing the two countries.
Trump says U.S. not necessarily bound by ‘one China’ policy
Trump plans to nominate a long-standing friend of Beijing, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, as the next U.S. ambassador to China.
But Trump is considering John Bolton, a former Bush administration official who has urged a tougher line on Beijing, for the No. 2 job at the U.S. State Department, according to a source familiar with the matter.

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