President Donald Trump’s approach to international relations confuses Chinese leaders, and it is intentional, an adviser revealed.
Trump is purposefully unpredictable, as he hopes to throw China off its game, Michael Pillsbury, a renowned China expert and adviser to the president’s team, said recently.
Not long after he won the election, Trump began poking and prodding exposed nerves in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, such as U.S. relations with Taiwan, the South China Sea, and trade. In particular, Trump’s regular questioning of the one-China principle has infuriated Chinese officials in Beijing unsure how to handle this issue.
“He wants to be unpredictable towards the Chinese,” Pillsbury told CGTN, a Chinese broadcaster.
Trump has said “the Chinese are the best negotiators in the world,” so “to get an advantage, he wants to be unpredictable in the eyes of the Chinese government,” he told reporters.
“I think he’s succeeded in this,” Pillsbury added, noting, “I think he’ll be one of our best presidents.”
Pillsbury’s statements reflect comments made at the Raisina Dialogue.
“His tweets have created a flutter in the Chinese state media,” Pillsbury revealed, arguing that Trump’s “unpredictability” might encourage the Chinese government to make “once unthinkable” concessions on important issues.
Pillsbury told CGTN that Trump does not actually need advisers on China, commenting that he understands China and has written extensively about China in his books, including his most recent “Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America.”
“The element of surprise wins battles. So, I don’t tell the other side what I’m doing, I don’t warn them, and I don’t let them fit me comfortably into a predictable pattern,” Trump wrote.
“I don’t want people to know exactly what I’m doing — or thinking. I like being unpredictable,” he added.
“It keeps them off balance,” he concluded.
Making America great again will require some assistance from China. Pillsbury argues that “the road to making America great again runs through Beijing.”
“China holds the key to boosting American growth … China, perhaps more than any other country, can help us create jobs, stimulate investment, and drive growth,” Pillsbury asserts, “But, that requires China take a sharp turn away from its brutally mercantilist policies that advantage its workers over ours and flout the norms of international trade. It requires ending China’s unfair trade practices and making trade compromises.”
Trump’s unpredictability raises the stakes, as a misstep could lead to confrontation, but, at the same time, it could also lead to a renegotiation of the bilateral relationship to better serve American interests.
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