Trump’s China policy follows pragmatic aims
Reuters reported Tuesday that US President Donald Trump could visit China in November during a trip to Asia to attend a series of summits, citing an anonymous source. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi stated after meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday that President Trump will pay a state visit to China later this year. Obviously, the two sides are working together to prepare for the visit.
China-US bilateral ties do not lack driving force, but also confront many problems, including the North Korea nuclear crisis and the trade relationship. As the Trump administration has not yet formed a clear China strategy, bilateral relations are shaped by specific issues. Optimists and pessimists about Sino-US relations can both find proof.
While Washington is direct in expressing its unhappiness, the importance it attaches to ties with China is also obvious. The Trump administration has no intention to subvert its entire international relations; it is more willing to shape an environment that is more favorable to revive the American economy.
Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, had been hawkish toward China. A few days ago, he compared China to the Germany of 1930 in an interview. But in a speech in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Bannon spoke highly of China’s leader and economic governance system. He even said China and the US can avoid a trade war.
Bannon is realistic about China’s strength, but also pursues “America First” in disregard of the rules. Although no longer working for the Trump administration, his remarks still reflect the mentality of the Trump team.
Washington will continue to pressure China differently from previous administrations on North Korea and trade issues, but it won’t risk breaking the China-US relationship entirely. It would like to see bilateral ties remain largely stable.
A White House official said Tues- day that if the Chinese government doesn’t take further action to respond to the US’ request to sanction North Korea, the US will take unilateral action against Chinese companies. As the United Nations Security Council just passed a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang, the US is threatening unilateral sanctions, a tactic that the US increasingly adopts.
Washington may send such complex signals again before Trump’s China visit. It is how Washington maneuvers when there is a major diplomatic event between China and the US, and Beijing is quite familiar with the approach. China needs to balance between maintaining the big picture and contending on specific issues when dealing with the US.
The Trump administration is showing more respect to China than to some of its allies, which is earned by China’s strength, restraint and persistence on important issues. China must stick to this path.