China-us Re­la­tion­ship:

Trad­ing Blows

NewsChina - - CONTENTS - By An Ran

Apart from a short respite dur­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's visit to China in Novem­ber, 2018, the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween the world's two largest economies has rapidly de­te­ri­o­rated. The US la­beled China a top se­cu­rity threat and a “re­vi­sion­ist” power, and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has an­nounced tar­iff in­creases on an es­ti­mated US$50 bil­lion worth of Chi­nese im­ports for 2018. China re­sponded by is­su­ing its own list of US prod­ucts of com­pa­ra­ble value that would be sub­ject to in­creased tar­iffs should the US follow through with trade sanc­tions. With the in­creas­ing risk of a trade war be­tween the two coun­tries, Newschina in­ter­viewed Li Cheng, di­rec­tor and se­nior fel­low of the Washington-based John L. Thorn­ton China Cen­ter at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, on the fu­ture of the Sino-us re­la­tion­ship. Li, who grew up in China and moved to the US in 1985, is an ex­pert on Chi­nese pol­i­tics and the Sino-us re­la­tion­ship, and is a pro­lific writer. He is also a di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee on United States-china Re­la­tions.

Newschina: It has been more than a year since Don­ald Trump was sworn in. What do you think of his ap­proach to for­eign pol­icy? Do you note any clar­ity or con­sis­tency, par­tic­u­larly to­ward China?

Li Cheng: I don't think Trump has for­mu­lated a clear and con­sis­tent for­eign pol­icy. One rea­son is that Trump is still un­der in­tense do­mes­tic scru­tiny re­sult­ing from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion over his al­leged col­lu­sion with Rus­sia, and un­cer­tainty about the re­sult of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has had a great im­pact on Trump's for­eign pol­icy. An­other rea­son is that many of the key posts within the White House, es­pe­cially those re­lat­ing to for­eign pol­icy, are ei­ther un­staffed or have a high turnover rate, which has had a ma­jor im­pact on the con­sis­tency of Trump's pol­icy. The in­con­sis­tency is par­tic­u­larly salient in Trump's pol­icy to­ward China. Dur­ing his visit to China last Novem­ber, Trump called Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping a “good friend,” but now, China is be­ing la­beled Amer­ica's top strate­gic ad­ver­sary. To a large ex­tent, US pol­icy to­ward China is now driven by in­di­vid­ual is­sues on an ad hoc ba­sis, not by a holis­tic long-term strat­egy.

The US is used to hav­ing for­eign pol­icy mas­ter­minds such as Ge­orge Ken­nan, A. Doak Bar­nett, Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski, Henry Kissinger, Robert Zoel­lick and Richard Haas. How­ever, none of the of­fi­cials cur­rently in­volved in mak­ing for­eign pol­icy in the Trump

Li Cheng

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