Trump can learn lessons from Euro­pean lead­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

When hear­ing US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s re­cent ir­ri­tat­ing rhetoric on China, former French pre­mier Jean-Pierre Raf­farin, a vet­eran politi­cian, was re­minded of some­thing sim­i­lar in Europe not too long ago. It in­volved Ni­co­las Sarkozy, who served as French pres­i­dent from 2007 to 2012.

At the be­gin­ning of his pres­i­dency, Sarkozy chal­lenged China’s core in­ter­ests by sup­port­ing Ti­betan sep­a­ratists and meet­ing the Dalai Lama. China re­acted by can­cel­ing the EU-China sum­mit and, in the depth of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, former pre­mier Wen Ji­abao point­edly ex­cluded France dur­ing a Euro­pean tour in early 2009, on his way to the an­nual Davos World Eco­nomic Fo­rum.

It was Raf­farin who brought China and France closer af­ter Sarkozy’s trou­bling moves. In a re­cent in­ter­view, Raf­farin said Sarkozy went from be­ing “un­pre­dictable to pre­dictable” and Trump is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a sim­i­lar kind of growth.

In say­ing so, Raf­farin knows very well that nei­ther the Euro­pean Union nor the Unites States has fully rec­og­nized China’s po­ten­tial, in­stead they are re­sort­ing to pro­tec­tion­ism and ir­ra­tional tac­tics.

For­tu­nately, af­ter Trump’s in­ad­vis­able phone con­ver­sa­tion with Tai­wan leader Tsai Ing-wen re­cently, some Euro­pean lead­ers have strongly op­posed his move. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel told jour­nal­ists that Ger­many con­tin­ues to stand by the one-China pol­icy and will not change its po­si­tion.

Hav­ing fre­quently vis­ited China dur­ing her 11 years as Ger­man chan­cel­lor, Merkel has a deep un­der­stand­ing and re­spect for China’s po­si­tion, which has helped to pave the way for fruit­ful ex­changes be­tween the two coun­tries.

Merkel’s stance was also em­pha­sized by French politi­cians. Last week, For­eign Min­is­ter Jean-Marc Ayrault called Trump’s ap­proach to China “not very clever”. Ayrault told French broad­caster France 2: “There may be dis­agree­ments with China, but we do not talk like that to a part­ner. We must avoid get­ting into a spi­ral where things are out of con­trol.”

Hope­fully, Trump will learn some state­craft from cross-At­lantic al­lies be­cause many of them are vet­eran hands in deal­ing with China. They know very well what are the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive “bot­tom lines” that must be ob­served.

The re­cent com­ments from Euro­pean politi­cians are en­cour­ag­ing be­cause they sug­gest there’s a chance that the EU could de­cide its for­eign pol­icy to­ward China in­de­pen­dently of Wash­ing­ton if Trump ad­heres to the ap­proach he has adopted as pres­i­dent-in-wait­ing, al­though it seems hard for the EU to do so at present.

For ex­am­ple, rather than fully hon­or­ing its com­mit­ments made 15 years ago when China joined the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Brus­sels is still fol­low­ing Wash­ing­ton’s lead and ac­cept­ing the ideas of Amer­i­can think tanks, link­ing this to the so­lu­tion of pro­duc­tion over­ca­pac­ity, which is a global prob­lem and not just a Chi­nese one.

The EU, fac­ing mul­ti­ple crises, must as­sess which strate­gic part­ners have con­trib­uted most to the bloc’s growth and pros­per­ity in the past decades. In do­ing so, it is the duty of the EU lead­ers to look at China fairly and com­pre­hen­sively. This would be of great ben­e­fit to the world, which is fac­ing un­prece­dented chal­lenges, un­cer­tain­ties and risks, and needs in­creased com­mit­ments, so­lu­tions and ac­tions to over­come them.

Dur­ing its grad­ual rein­te­gra­tion into the world, China has been re­peat­edly urged by the West to play a re­spon­si­ble role in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. But it is crys­tal clear which player is the most re­spon­si­ble.

It is time for other play­ers to play re­spon­si­ble roles and join China in up­grad­ing their ac­tions to tackle the myr­iad prob­lems fac­ing the world to­day.

And the bot­tom line is that Trump should be ig­nored if he in­sists on try­ing to be a trou­ble­maker — this world is risky enough al­ready.

The au­thor is deputy chief of the China Daily Euro­pean bureau. fu­jing@chi­

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