Trump ask­ing too much from Bei­jing on penin­sula is­sue

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will re­port­edly sign an ex­ec­u­tive mem­o­ran­dum on Mon­day au­tho­riz­ing the US trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive to de­ter­mine whether to in­ves­ti­gate the al­legedly “un­fair” Chi­nese trade prac­tices, which could pave the way for puni­tive tar­iffs on Chi­nese ex­ports. But it is of crit­i­cal strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance that his ad­min­is­tra­tion demon­strates rea­son and avoids mak­ing a rash de­ci­sion it will soon re­gret. Given Trump’s trans­ac­tional ap­proach to for­eign affairs, it is im­pos­si­ble to look at the mat­ter with­out tak­ing into ac­count his in­creas­ing dis­ap­point­ment at what he deems as China’s fail­ure to bring into line the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea. His idea of ex­ploit­ing trade as a bar­gain­ing chip in deal­ings with China dates back to the cam­paign trail.

But in­stead of ad­vanc­ing the United States’ in­ter­ests, politi­ciz­ing trade will only acer­bate the coun­try’s eco­nomic woes, and poi­son the over­all China-US re­la­tion­ship.

Blam­ing China for “un­fair” trade is un­fair in the first place. The trade im­bal­ance, reg­u­lar fod­der for China-bash­ing on Capi­tol Hill, is, to a great ex­tent, self-in­flicted, an out­come of the US’ political re­stric­tions on ex­ports to China. Yet this es­sen­tial as­pect is con­spic­u­ously ab­sent in the US’ nar­ra­tive. The list of US gains in trade with China can grow or shrink, de­pend­ing on how trade is­sues are han­dled.

While Trump’s prior iden­tity as a busi­ness­man may ex­plain his trans­ac­tional propen­sity, the deal he seeks de­mands the im­pos­si­ble of Bei­jing.

It is un­fair for him to con­sign the bur­den of dis­suad­ing Py­ongyang on Bei­jing; like­wise to ac­cuse Bei­jing of do­ing “lit­tle” or “noth­ing”.

East Asia ex­pert and for­mer US am­bas­sador to the Repub­lic of Korea Christo­pher Hill was cor­rect in ob­serv­ing Trump should not “out­source” the US’ own trou­bles to China.

As Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping again told Trump on Satur­day, Bei­jing also seeks de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula. It would not have voted in fa­vor of the lat­est United Na­tions res­o­lu­tion against Py­ongyang’s mis­sile/nu­clear ad­ven­tures if this was not the case. The only dif­fer­ence is, Bei­jing wants to break the cir­cle of es­ca­la­tion.

By try­ing to in­crim­i­nate Bei­jing as an ac­com­plice in the DPRK’s nu­clear ad­ven­ture and blame it for a fail­ure that is es­sen­tially a fail­ure of all stake­hold­ers, Trump risks mak­ing the se­ri­ous mis­take of split­ting up the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion that is the means to re­solve the is­sue peace­fully.

Hope­fully Trump will find an­other path. Things will be­come even more dif­fi­cult if Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton are pit­ted against each other.

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