Trump gam­bles on China endgame

Kuwait Times - - Analysis -

Don­ald Trump has es­ca­lated his feud with China into a full-press of­fen­sive that has drawn com­par­isons to the Cold War. Now the ques­tion on both sides of the Pa­cific is, how will it end? In re­cent weeks, Trump has slapped $250 bil­lion worth of tar­iffs, boosted mil­i­tary sup­port for ri­val Tai­wan, ac­cused China of in­ter­fer­ing in US elec­tions, stepped up de­nun­ci­a­tions of Bei­jing’s hu­man rights record and cur­tailed its ac­cess to US nu­clear tech­nol­ogy. The real es­tate mogul, who early in his ten­ure had de­scribed Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping as a friend, was gen­er­ally pre­sumed to be most in­ter­ested in trade as he has re­peat­edly vowed to ramp up US fac­tory pro­duc­tion by fight­ing back the flow of cheaper man­u­fac­tured im­ports.

But his ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­panded its pres­sure cam­paign to vir­tu­ally all fronts, a strat­egy un­prece­dented since the time the United States and China es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions four decades ago. “It is a full-frontal as­sault by the US on China,” said El­iz­a­beth Econ­omy, di­rec­tor for Asia stud­ies at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions. “There is a gen­eral sense in Wash­ing­ton that China is sim­ply too big now, it’s sim­ply too large as a coun­try and as an econ­omy, to al­low it to con­tinue to vi­o­late all sorts of ex­pected in­ter­na­tional trade and in­vest­ment norms,” she said.

Econ­omy said that the United States was also struck at how Xi has “pre­sented a very dif­fer­ent China to the world” with a “much more am­bi­tious and ex­pan­sive for­eign pol­icy.” “The US and other coun­tries say, ‘Okay, this is the China we have to deal with, not what we an­tic­i­pated ten years ago.’”

China ready for ‘marathon’ Hua Po, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor in Bei­jing, agreed that trade was only the “su­per­fi­cial” source of fric­tion. He be­lieved that the un­der­ly­ing con­cern of the United States was the Made in China 2025 plan, un­der which Bei­jing has set a goal of rapidly en­sur­ing that a ma­jor­ity of its in­dus­try is sourced do­mes­ti­cally. The United States ac­cuses China of ram­pantly steal­ing tech­nol­ogy and seek­ing an un­fair trade ad­van­tage by forc­ing for­eign busi­nesses to work with lo­cal part­ners. “Even if the trade is­sue is re­solved, other prob­lems be­tween China and the United States will con­tinue to ex­ist,” Hua said.

Hua said that Trump seemed to want “to fight a new cold war.” But Hua doubted that the United States would en­joy the sup­port of its al­lies, es­pe­cially in Europe, which do not see China as the same type of threat as the for­mer Soviet Union. And amid tur­bu­lence on Wall Street, China is ex­pect­ing the US econ­omy to see grow­ing strains as neg­a­tive ef­fects emerge from Trump’s sig­na­ture do­mes­tic pol­icy of tax cuts, Hua said. “China does be­lieve that this dis­pute will last for some time. The United States wants to run a 100-me­ter race with China, but China wants a marathon with the United States,” he said.

Ten­sions soared be­tween the world’s two largest economies last month at the an­nual UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion. A closed-door meet­ing of for­eign min­is­ters from the five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil turned “icy” as US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo lashed out ag­gres­sively against China, whose for­eign min­is­ter, Wang Yi, re­sponded with sim­i­lar in­ten­sity, ac­cord­ing to a wit­ness. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence a week later de­liv­ered a speech in which he took China to task and made the head­line-grab­bing claim, a month ahead of con­gres­sional elec­tions, that Bei­jing was in­ter­ven­ing in US pol­i­tics, cit­ing the Asian power’s pur­chase of news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ments and its im­po­si­tion of counter tar­iffs in po­lit­i­cally cru­cial states. — AFP

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