US-China rifts widen de­spite eco­nomic head­way

Am­bi­tious eco­nomic plans fail to hide is­sues be­tween su­per­pow­ers

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Three months af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump hosted a lav­ish wel­come for his Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping at his Florida re­sort, the pow­ers have made head­way on an am­bi­tious eco­nomic plan even as diplo­matic rifts be­tween them have widened. Speak­ing in Paris on Thurs­day, the Amer­i­can leader was full of praise for Xi, pro­claim­ing him a “friend” for whom he has “great re­spect”, a “great leader” and a “very tal­ented man.”

The ex­pres­sions of ad­mi­ra­tion have gone both ways-a day ear­lier Bei­jing’s for­eign min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang had hailed “pos­i­tive ad­vances” in Chi­naUS eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion based on a spirit of “con­sen­sus” be­tween the two lead­ers. Both sides see mod­er­ate progress on a wide-rang­ing 100day eco­nomic ac­tion plan, first un­veiled at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago es­tate in April that cov­ers such ar­eas as fi­nan­cial ser­vices, in­vest­ment, en­ergy and trade-a topic close to the US pres­i­dent’s heart.

Evans Re­vere, an an­a­lyst at Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, told AFP: “Both sides seem to share the view that the 100-day plan is largely on track.” Jake Parker, vice pres­i­dent of the US-China Busi­ness Coun­cil in Bei­jing, largely agreed: “Over­all, the 100-day out­comes are pos­i­tive first steps ad­dress­ing lin­ger­ing is­sues in the US-China com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ship,” he said, while adding that more needed to be done to ad­dress struc­tural is­sues such as for­eign in­vest­ment re­stric­tions.

But de­spite the ef­fu­sive rhetoric, that progress has not been matched in other ar­eas of the re­la­tion­ship with ever widen­ing rifts on a host of for­eign pol­icy is­sues. The US ap­pears bit­terly dis­ap­pointed over China’s fail­ure to ex­ert pres­sure on North Korea in the wake of its first ever in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile test, while Bei­jing has been left fum­ing at Amer­i­can in­cur­sions into dis­puted ter­ri­tory in the South China Sea, arms sales to Tai­wan and state­ments on hu­man rights.

Chi­nese bo­gey­man

Trump made China a cen­tral part of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, de­nounc­ing the coun­try for un­fair trad­ing prac­tices that cost Amer­i­cans jobs and ac­cus­ing it of ma­nip­u­lat­ing its cur­rency. Since be­com­ing pres­i­dent, how­ever, he has taken an about turn on the cur­rency is­sue and in May an­nounced a deal to ex­port Amer­i­can beef and gas to China in the hope of re­duc­ing a mas­sive trade deficit that to­taled $347 bil­lion in 2016.

Th­ese first re­sults from the 100day plan will likely be feted at the US-China Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Dia­logue that will be held on July 19 in Wash­ing­ton, hosted by US trea­sury and com­merce sec­re­taries Steven Mnuchin and Wil­bur Ross and Chi­nese vice pre­mier Wang Yang. But in other con­tentious ar­eas of the re­la­tion­ship-ten­sions in the Korean penin­sula, China’s mar­itime dis­putes with its neigh­bors, Tai­wan and hu­man rights-”the two sides are far apart,” says Re­vere.

The US has scolded Bei­jing for not putting enough pres­sure on North Korea, which in­creased trade with its key diplo­matic backer by 10.5 per­cent in the first half of this year. The July 4 launch of an ICBM by Py­ongyang sig­naled that Trump’s “naive ex­per­i­ment re­gard­ing China and North Korea is now com­ing to an end,” said Re­vere, vin­di­cat­ing for­eign pol­icy ex­perts’ skep­ti­cism to­wards re­ly­ing on Bei­jing to rein in its neigh­bor.

Pa­tience evap­o­rat­ing

As ev­i­dence of the shift, Re­vere cited US sanc­tions on Chi­nese en­ti­ties such as the Bank of Dan­dong, which is ac­cused of il­licit deal­ings with com­pa­nies linked to the weapons pro­gram, days be­fore the launch. Ten­sions have also been stoked by the pas­sage of a US war­ship near a reef claimed by Bei­jing in May and two B-1 bombers over dis­puted wa­ters in July, acts de­nounced by China as grave mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal provo­ca­tions.

Wash­ing­ton mean­while ap­proved a $1.3 bil­lion arms deal to Tai­wan, an is­land which Bei­jing con­sid­ers a rebel prov­ince await­ing re­uni­fi­ca­tion. The de­vel­op­ments ap­peared to have been ac­knowl­edged by Geng Shuang as “neg­a­tive fac­tors” in the re­la­tion­ship brought about by “ac­tions of the US.” On the thorny ques­tion of hu­man rights, state­ments from the US State De­part­ment have come pour­ing in­call­ing on China to re­spect Hong Kong’s free­doms, de­sist its crack­down on lawyers, or con­demn­ing Bei­jing for the death in cus­tody No­bel peace prize win­ner Liu Xiaobo. As for Trump’s con­tin­u­ing habit of prais­ing the Chi­nese leader, Re­vere be­lieves it stems largely from “a de­sire to keep the door open in case Bei­jing changes its pos­ture visa-vis North Korea, as well as to try to keep the US-China re­la­tion­ship on a steady course.” — AFP

ANDHRA PRADESH: In this pic­ture taken on July 15, 2017 an In­dian farmer (R) sells pa­payas along a high­way road in Gun­tur Dis­trict, in the South­ern In­dian state of Andhra Pradesh.—AFP

BEI­JING: Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping (R) meets with Canada’s Gover­nor Gen­eral David John­ston (not pic­tured) at the Diaoyu­tai State Guest­house. — AFP

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