Yaxue Cao, November 13, 2016
On November 9, around 6:30 am EST (7:30 pm in Beijing), Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Chinese president Xi Jinping’s had sent the U. S. president-elect Donald Trump a “congratulatory telegram.” A telegram, really? How do you send a telegram to a New York billionaire in 2016? It sounds like Mao Zedong sending a telegram to comrade Enver Hoxha in Albania in 1961.
Whether or not a telegram was sent, Mr. Trump hasn’t received it. Nor has he tried to reach out to Xi, though he spoke to nine world leaders within 24 hours of his victory, and by Friday, he has spoken with or heard from “most” leaders except for Xi.
The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpieces, however, have lost no time to lay out their expectations of the president-elect.
China and the U.S. Must Continue to Cooperate
A couple of hours later, around 10 am EST, November 9, Xinhua published a commentary titled “Hoping for the China-U. S. Relationship to Make Bigger Advances From a New Starting Point.” When Trump takes office at the beginning of next year, it begins, it will be the 45th Anniversary of Shanghai Communique, and it will present the two countries “a big opportunity…to make a new step forward.”
Our relationship has been normalized for 40 years, the commentary goes on, and we have achieved so much in trade, dialogues, dealing with regional and global challenges, and we have been cooperating more and more deeply. “It’s a win-win for both if we cooperate, and it will hurt both if we fight.” Our common interests greatly outweigh our differences, it indicated.
The word “cooperation” appeared 10 times in this brief commentary of 1,200 characters.
It’s Just Campaign Rhetoric, Right?
Mr. Trump vowed to “put America first” and voiced objection against globalization. He promised to designate China as a “currency manipulator,” and said the U. S. would slap a 45% tariff on Chinese imports. He plans to reinforce the American military presence in Asia.
But surely, the commentary says, “campaign language is just campaign language.”
“Reasonable people have realized that, after decades of development, trade cooperation has become the brightest part of the China-U. S. relations. The two countries are seeing mutually beneficial trade relations displaying these trends: the areas of our cooperation continue to multiply, the scope of our cooperation continues to expand, and the level of our cooperation continues to elevate. Trade and economic cooperation is the ‘ballast’ and the ‘propeller’ of the China–U. S. relationship.”
Isolationism is bad for the America — the commentary cited a researcher named Lee Branstetter and unspecified “American economists.”
Overseas Military Interventionism Is Bad for America
However, China likes Trump’s proposed reduction of overseas military involvement during the campaign.
“History has proved that the U. S. has paid heavy political and economic costs for overseas military interventionism. Instead, China and the U. S. should coordinate and cooperate on hot regional issues as well as global challenges.”
A ‘New Type Great Power Relationship’ and ‘Win-win’
In the early evening, around 6:30pm, EST, on November 9, the People’s Daily published a commentary titled “The Big Picture of the China-U. S. Relationship Won’t Change.” It opines:
“The effort to build new type great power relationship between China and the U. S. is based on the solid and tangible interests of both peoples, and promoting the healthy development of the two countries’ business and trade relationship is an important channel to realize these interests.”
It says that “it’s been proven that the two countries are mature powers capable of handling many complex and sensitive issues, cooperating bilaterally, regionally and globally, and managing their differences constructively.”
As examples of the two countries “consciously cultivating strategic mutual trust,” the piece evokes Xi Jinping and Obama’s meetings at the “Sunnylands meeting” in June 2013, their “Yingtai nightly conversations” inside the CCP headquarters of Zhongnanhai in November 2014, their “autumn chat” in the White House in September 2015, and their “stroll along the West Lake” in Hangzhou in September 2016.
Repeating pretty much what the Xinhua commentary says, sometimes verbatim, it goes on to coax the President-elect that “it is for the fundamental interest of the two peoples that China and the U. S. develop long-term healthy and stable relationship, which is also the overall expectation of the international community.”
China Will Fight Back….
On November 11, Global Times, another mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published an article recommending that China “should stand ready to fight back if Donald Trump rolls out measures against China after he is sworn in as US president.” These include “establish[ing] trade barriers for American imports,” naming Apple for example. “If Trump plans to persuade American enterprises in China to return to the U.S., which would take jobs away from China,” China should consider the 80,000 jobs its investments have created in the U. S.
(To put the matter in perspective, the number of U. S. jobs outsourced to China since 2001, according to one statistic, is 3,200,000.)
“Without a doubt, China has plenty of chips with which to bargain with the U.S. …China should also develop contingency plans to prepare for the worst, if the U.S. does provoke a trade war. In the meantime, Beijing is likely to seek dialogue with Trump to ensure a smooth transition in Sino-U.S. ties.”
‘What Concerns Us Most Is Globalization’
On November 12, Ms. Hu Shuli (胡舒立), the editor-in-chief of Caixin Media, believed to be closely tied to the Party’s disciplinary czar Wang Qishan (王岐山), opined on Caijing’s Weibo (later published in Caixin) about Trump’s win. She observes soberly that, with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, globalization will be undergoing tumultuous changes, and “all of these are highly relevant to China.”
“To maintain stable economic development, deepen reforms and open-up, and realize the goal of a prosperous society, China needs a smooth and bright global economic environment that robustly pulls forward. From 1978 when China initiated reforms, to 1992 when China revamped reforms, to the beginning of the 21st century when China accelerated opening up, China has been enjoying just such an international environment. It’s true that the Chinese economy is not as open as the American economy. Right now China is planning to continue to open up, but the U.S. is signaling a closure. What is China going to do?”
She prescribed continuous globalization and domestic reforms that will benefit more of the people, but China watchers are anything but sanguine about the changes Xi Jinping has been implementing since taking power.
On the eve of the U.S. election, China’s Climate Minister Xie Zhenhua (解振华) and one of his top negotiators Zou Ji (邹骥), warned that Trump should not pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement as he said he would during the campaign.
“If Trump were to insist on doing things his own way, then he would pay a heavy price both politically and diplomatically,” said Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy, part of China’s state planning apparatus.
“The U.S. would suffer the greatest harm and of course, the rest of the world would also be implicated,” he told reporters on Nov. 4.
Zou’s comments marked the second occurrence in a week of a Chinese official commenting on a foreign election, both of whom condemned Trump’s threat to spurn the Paris Agreement, made by nearly 200 governments, which takes effect on Nov. 11.
On Nov. 1, China’s top climate change negotiator rejected Trump’s plan to back out, saying a wise political leader should make policy in line with global trends.
While it’s amusing to see China touting itself as “a responsible country,” China’s worries about the U.S. withdrawing from the climate change pact may have more to do with just climate change.
In an essay in 2014, political scientist Wu Qiang (吴强) pointed out that Obama’s deal with Xi Jinping on reducing China’s carbon emission was “almost the sole instance of progress the Obama administration has made in U.S.-China relations at a time when the relationship is becoming more difficult.” He argued that climate change was the bond that would be the engine driving the relationship.
“During the Clinton administration, Most Favored Nation Trade Status was the issue that bound the relationship. During the Bush administration, the bond was the war on terrorism. Now that these bonds are gone, emissions promises are becoming the new bond that keeps the two countries in a cooperative relationship in which they clash often but not break up.”
What Will Trump’s China Policy Look Like?
I will not guess, but this piece of colorful advice from a Trump advisor caught my eyes the other day:
To deal with China, he says, the United States should act like an aggressive patient at a dentist’s office: “Here’s how the patient deals with the dentist: sits down in the chair, grabs the dentist by the nuts, and says, ‘You don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you.’”
I’m all for grabbing Xi Jinping by the balls, just not lying on a dentist chair.
Trump’s Brief Encounter With the Chinese Judiciary
On May 18, 2015, the Beijing Superior People’s Court upheld a lower court ruling that denied the registration of Trump as a trademark in China.
Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao.
Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific, Alexander Gray and Peter Navarro, Foreign Policy, November 7, 2016.
A Trump-China Reading List, Graham Webster, November 9, 2016.