In offensive on China, Trump gambles on end game
WASHINGTON: 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 US$250bil ( RM1 trillion) 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 the United States 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 repeat- edly 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 US 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 10 years ago’.”
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.