China cordially congratulated Donald Trump on his win, but there appears to be some anxiety over his long-term aspirations.
“Their first reaction to Trump was shock,” Henry Kissinger, the man who helped restore U.S. ties with China as secretary of state under Richard Nixon and a statesman who regularly meets with senior Chinese leadership, told a reporter for The Atlantic. “‘Does this mean that we are inevitably bound to be in confrontation?’ That was their first reaction,” he added.
The reality is that concern likely lurks beneath the president’s carefully-crafted response.
“I place great importance on the China-U.S. relationship, and look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” President Xi Jinping told Trump after his victory over Hillary Clinton.
Trump used China as a punching bag numerous times during his campaign. Claiming that China is “raping this country” with unfair trade practices, Trump plans to label China a “currency manipulator” and slap tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese exports, which could potentially trigger a trade war between the first and second largest economies.
The total trade value of goods and services between the US and China in 2015 was $659 billion, according to CNN.
“I expect greater conflict is likely because the incoming administration is likely to identify China as a currency manipulator and prepare to raise tariffs. I expect more antidumping, countervailing duty, and WTO cases, and there to be greater scrutiny on Chinese investments into the US. It will then be up to the Chinese to determine how they’ll respond,” Scott Kennedy, the deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“They could try to address Trump’s concerns and/or retaliate. I’d expect a token positive response but greater weight placed on arguing that they aren’t doing anything wrong and retaliating. China doesn’t like being pushed around, the current leadership is particularly nationalistic, and 2017 is a political transition year where there’s no political incentive in China to appear overly responsive to external demands,” he added.
“More than anything else, a balanced, peaceful world order depends on a stable U.S.–China relationship…a trade war would devastate both of us,” Kissinger explained, “A military conflict between the two countries, given the technologies they possess, would be calamitous.”
“The economic and trade cooperation is what keeps the China-US relationship stable and moves it forward,” Chinese Foreign Minister Lu Kang said Thursday. “I believe that any US politician, if he takes the interests of his own people first, will adopt a policy that is conducive to the economic and trade cooperation between China and the US.,” Kang further stated.
Kissinger gave President Barack Obama a B-plus for his engagements with China; however, he noted that Obama has been too focused on the short-term. China plays the long game, and this holds true in economics, as well as other key issues like the South China Sea.
“Our policies must be broad-gauged enough” to adapt to China’s strategy, which is unclear, Kissinger explained, “The United States and China must strive to come to an understanding about the nature of their co-evolution.”
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