Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump Cools on China

Dimitri Alexander Simes

Donald Trump’s administration is gradually losing patience with China. Over the past week, it adopted a new and more confrontational posture towards Beijing, including possible tariffs on steel. These moves mark a reversal from the president’s earlier approach to China, which sought to recruit the People’s Republic as a partner in solving regional issues, most notably on North Korea.
As a candidate, Trump took a critical tone on China. Speaking about America’s trade deficit with the country at a May 2016 rally in Indiana, the New York billionaire declared, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.” Throughout the election season, he promised to outmaneuver Beijing if elected. “You can win against China if you're smart,” he told a South Carolina audience in July 2015.
Upon taking office, however, Trump appeared to prefer collaboration over confrontation with Beijing. After meeting with the Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago in early April, Trump expressed optimism about finding common on North Korea and trade. Beyond positive words, the president backed away from some of his tougher campaign proposals in order to cultivate China. He decided against labeling the People’s Republic a currency manipulator, citing the need to gain its support on North Korea.