In light of Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, one question looms large: How will Trump address US-China relations?
Like many of Trump’s relationships, his relationship with China is, and has been for this presidential election, complex. In May of this year, Trump claimed that China was “raping” the United States by manipulating its own currency to make made-in-China products more economically competitive. He also demanded that the Asian giant be labeled as a “currency manipulator.” In June, he vowed to place a 45% tariff on imported Chinese goods. In response, Beijing has called out Trump for his excessive China-bashing.
Yet despite Trump’s rhetoric, some Chinese favor Trump’s presidency over Hillary Clinton’s. This preference for Trump is partly because Hillary led the American “pivot to Asia” under President Obama’s leadership, while Trump supported drawing back US action in Asia, thus leaving more room for China to expand its influence in the region, according to comments from political commentator Professor Xie Tao at Beijing Foreign Language University via Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 2, 2016
Now faced with Trump as the US president, trade war between the two largest economies seems to be the central issue determining US-China relations. The Wall Street Journal predicts that if Trump enforces the 45% tariff on imported Chinese goods, people in China will target American investors, thus dealing a blow to well-off American companies operating in China. Earlier today, Party tabloid the Global Times wrote that China could potentially stop buying Boeing and cut off sales of the iPhone in China. In a phone call on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping also told Trump that cooperation is the only option.
One potential bright spot for China is Trump’s plan to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which would benefit China by leaving it with more room to assert power in Asia. Yet even this is uncertain; in a conversation on ChinaFile, national and foreign affairs broadcast reporter Melissa Chan points how Trump’s policy advisers are seeking tighter relations with China’s neighbors.
Trump’s major challenge will be his campaign commitment against the [TPP]. He will need to demonstrate some kind of economic pillar to the pivot, but without the TPP. That might not be possible.
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) November 9, 2016
According to Bloomberg, China’s economic power lies in whether it can manage its overseas spending, international reserves, and debt. Although China’s economy has maintained a 6.7% growth for the third consecutive quarter, its currency continues to experience devaluation. If a trade war breaks out between the US and China, China will react strongly to US moves, commented Andrew Polk, Beijing-based head of China research at Medley Global Advisors.
— ReutersBreakingviews (@Breakingviews) November 8, 2016
Trump’s personality will also influence trade policy. According to The Diplomat, although China appears to have preferred Republican presidents in the past, Trump is not a typical Republican president; in fact, he “represents a new, populist faction of the party that shows no indication of cleaving to the business-friendly policies of the past.”
Professor Xie Tao expressed similar bewilderment of Trump: “You just don’t know him, he’s never had a single day in office.”
By Abby Ordillas
[Images from Baidu / Baidu]