AD­JUST­ING RHETORIC TO REALITIES OF GLOBAL BAL­ANCES

The pos­i­tive at­mos­phere of Trump's visit to China may not help the U.S. re-en­gage the realities of the global sys­tem, but it is a good start

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - KILIÇ BUĞRA KANAT

U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump de­cided to ad­just his rhetoric on China, crit­i­ciz­ing past ad­min­is­tra­tions rather than Bei­jing for the trade im­bal­ance be­tween the two coun­tries.

Now con­sid­ered by many as the most sig­nif­i­cant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion in the world, a few years ago sev­eral geopo­lit­i­cal ex­perts even sug­gested the be­gin­ning of a mech­a­nism be­tween the U.S. and China such as the G-2 in or­der to ef­fec­tively run the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. Both coun­tries have mixed feel­ings and in­ter­nal di­vi­sion about relations with each other. In ad­di­tion to more dovish fig­ures in both coun­tries, there are hawks who con­sider the other a ma­jor na­tional se­cu­rity threat.

In the United States, this voice of China alarmists have be­come more preva­lent since it is the su­per power that is be­ing chal­lenged with the eco­nomic rise of China for the last two decades. There are plenty of books, videos and jour­nal ar­ti­cles in ad­di­tion to a frenzy of po­lit­i­cal rhetoric that fo­cus on the rise of China. This alarmist dis­course res­onates not only in Wash­ing­ton, but also in dif­fer­ent Amer­i­can towns that have ex­pe­ri­enced fac­tory clo­sures, off­shoring and out­sourc­ing of jobs to China.

Now, for many elec­tions in these towns and cities the harsh rhetoric about los­ing jobs to China has been the most sig­nif­i­cant source of voter mo­bi­liza­tion and align­ment. U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been one of the staunch users of this type of dis­course. Long be­fore he be­came a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Trump started to crit­i­cize China for steal­ing Amer­i­can jobs and “rap­ing” Amer­i­can in­dus­try.

Af­ter be­com­ing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to run the world su­per­power, he in­sisted on rais­ing this is­sue. He promised to name China as a cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor and to stop the un­fair trade prac­tices of China. This rhetoric caused ma­jor con­cern in China when Trump won an un­ex­pected vic­tory in the elec­tions.

Al­though it was Hil­lary Clin­ton who launched the U.S.’s Asia pivot pol­icy and al­though some con­sid­ered her very hawk­ish against China dur­ing her ten­ure as sec­re­tary of state, it was Trump who gave chills to many. In his first cou­ple of months in of­fice he fol­lowed an un­pre­dictable path and a hard-to-ex­plain pat­tern re­gard­ing relations with China. His phone call with the Tai­wanese pres­i­dent and his tweets about the South China Sea in his first cou­ple of months in of­fice were cited here be­fore as an ir­ri­tant to bi­lat­eral relations.

How­ever, his de­ci­sion to with­draw the U.S. from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) ne­go­ti­a­tions in­ad­ver­tently gen­er­ated an ad­van­tage for Bei­jing. Later, Trump tweeted about his dis­ap­point­ment about China re­gard­ing to the North Korea prob­lem. Those who want to un­der­stand Trump’s pol­icy on China de­cided to be pa­tient and waited for his first of­fi­cial visit to China.

A year af­ter his elec­tion, Trump vis­ited China in the midst of height­en­ing ten­sion with North Korea and over the South China Sea. How­ever, the top of the agenda was of course trade dis­putes and the im­mense trade deficit be­tween the two coun­tries. Trump stunned Amer­i­cans on Thurs­day with his change of dis­course on China about trade. Af­ter blam­ing China for years, Trump this time did not fol­low that path and in­stead ac­cused for­mer U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions for the dis­ad­van­tage to China.

He said: "Af­ter all, who can blame a coun­try for be­ing able to take ad­van­tage of an­other coun­try to the ben­e­fit of its cit­i­zens? But in ac­tu­al­ity, I do blame past ad­min­is­tra­tions for al­low­ing this out-of-con­trol trade deficit to take place and to grow. We have to fix this be­cause it just doesn't work for our great Amer­i­can com­pa­nies and it doesn't work for our great Amer­i­can work­ers. It is just not sus­tain­able.”

Fol­low­ing the speech, the two coun­tries signed a ma­jor trade and busi­ness agree­ment worth $250 bil­lion. In ad­di­tion, Trump made a sec­ond sur­pris­ing state­ment thank­ing China for its ef­forts to deal with North Korea.

“China can fix this prob­lem eas­ily and quickly, and I'm call­ing on China and your great pres­i­dent to hope­fully work on it very hard. I know one thing about your pres­i­dent. If he works on it hard, it will hap­pen, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

Many are al­ready con­sid­er­ing this change the dis­course as Trump re­turn­ing to re­al­ity. At the end of the day, as the two largest economies of the world, these two coun­tries need to in­ter­act and work to­gether in or­der for there to be a func­tion­ing global econ­omy. How­ever, for the U.S., the is­sue of relations with China can be a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal in­stru­ment.

The sec­ond is­sue of North Korea and Trump’s state­ments about it may not res­onate a lot in the U.S., but his chang­ing dis­course about eco­nomic relations with China may gen­er­ate a lot of de­bate. Al­though ev­ery U.S. pres­i­dent in the last three decades had harsh rhetoric on China dur­ing their pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, for Trump, the is­sue of los­ing jobs to other coun­tries was one of the most sig­nif­i­cant pil­lars of his run. He made the is­sue a ral­ly­ing point for his cam­paign and suc­cess­fully mo­bi­lized vot­ers with the same dis­course.

On his re­turn to the U.S., he has to ad­just his new rhetoric to the realities of the global econ­omy and U.S. do­mes­tic pol­i­tics – a balance that ev­ery pres­i­dent in the last three decades had to adopt and work on. This new balance will not only in­flu­ence Trump's re­la­tion with his base, but also play an im­por­tant role in build­ing a new tone in bi­lat­eral relations be­tween the two coun­tries.

Pres­i­dent Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump visit the For­bid­den City with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Bei­jing, China, Nov. 8.

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