What more to ex­pect with Trump in of­fice?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The gap be­tween China and the United States in terms of na­tional strength and in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence has fur­ther nar­rowed this year. China’s in­ter­ac­tions with the US on the re­gional se­cu­rity and eco­nomic or­ders, com­bined with its po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and rel­a­tively de­cent eco­nomic growth, speak vol­umes about Bei­jing’s pro­posal at ma­jor events such as the G20 Lead­ers Sum­mit in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, to build an in­clu­sive global or­der. And given the in­creas­ing num­ber of economies rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of China’s pro­posal and Bei­jing’s en­hanced lead­er­ship ca­pa­bil­ity, Sino-US ties are mov­ing to­ward a more bal­anced state.

On its part, the US has a long way to go to ad­dress the deep di­vi­sions at home ex­posed by Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion as the next pres­i­dent. The US’ at­tempts to con­tain the rise of China, epit­o­mized by the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment that Trump has vowed to scrap on his first day in of­fice, have been fu­tile and dis­carded by most re­gional pow­ers.

Be­sides, Trump’s call to US al­lies such as Ja­pan and the Repub­lic of Korea to pitch in to sus­tain the US’ mil­i­tary pres­ence on their soil raises fur­ther ques­tions on Wash­ing- ton’s self-pro­claimed ca­pa­bil­ity of be­ing the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion’s leader.

Nei­ther Bei­jing nor Wash­ing­ton has made any com­pro­mise in han­dling sen­si­tive is­sues, es­pe­cially the dis­putes in the South China Sea, the planned de­ploy­ment of the Ter­mi­nal High Alti­tude Area De­fense anti-mis­sile sys­tem in the ROK, and cross-Straits re­la­tions, adding more un­cer­tain­ties to Sino-US ties.

Since be­fore the July “ar­bi­tral rul­ing” on the South China Sea dis­pute be­tween China and the Philip­pines the US has been play­ing up the “China threat” fal­lacy and dis­patch­ing war­planes and cruis­ers close to China’s terri- to­rial wa­ters in the name of “safe­guard­ing the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion”. See­ing China as a strate­gic threat, the US also has be­come more ag­gres­sive — the de­ploy­ment of THAAD in the ROK and at­tempts to in­ter­vene in crossS­traits af­fairs are just two such ex­am­ples.

China-US re­la­tions have wit­nessed un­ex­pected twists this year, as fric­tions have in­creased over trade, long con­sid­ered a cor­ner­stone of bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, although the two coun­tries seem to have re­solved some dis­putes over what should be done to dis­suade the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea from build­ing nu­clear weapons.

The Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, a cham­pion of the TPP and other ex­clu­sive agree­ments in the Asia-Pa­cific, has over-politi­cized the China-US re­la­tion­ship. It has also re­stricted the en­try of Chi­nese en­ter­prises such as Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co and ZTE to the US mar­ket, say­ing they pose a na­tional se­cu­rity threat to the coun­try.

Yet the two coun­tries, as per­ma­nent UN Se­cu­rity Coun- cil mem­bers, have agreed on fresh sanc­tions on the DPRK.

De­spite the chal­lenges, both na­tions ba­si­cally re­main com­mit­ted to co­op­er­a­tion, as shown by the dozens of bi­lat­eral deals inked af­ter lead­er­ship meet­ings in Hangzhou and Lima, Peru, where this year’s APEC meet­ing was held.

What the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s China pol­icy will be is un­clear. Un­like many of his pre­de­ces­sors, he lacks proper un­der­stand­ing of the com­plex­ity of Bei­jing-Wash­ing­ton ties. No won­der he has nom­i­nated many of­fi­cials with no ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment to lead key de­part­ments and has been in­dulging in “Twit­ter diplo­macy”.

Given by Trump’s cam­paign prom­ise to fix eco­nomic woes at home and cre­ate more jobs, how­ever, one can say that his China pol­icy will fo­cus on trade-re­lated is­sues, rang­ing from the Chi­nese cur­rency’s ex­change rate to trade deficits. But since the new US ad­min­is­tra­tion, thanks to a slew of conservatives, is ex­pected to take a hawk­ish stance on China over the South China Sea and THAAD is­sues, more fric­tions could be seen in both trade and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of US stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity.

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