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What Trump means for China

New chapter in relations about to be written
By Shen Dingli
Against the indications of most of the polls, Donald Trump has been elected to be the next US president, ending a year-long highly polarized political process to determine the new commander-in-chief of the United States. Although Trump won the Elect-oral College vote, the president-elect lost the popular vote, and the election has revealed a deeply divided US. He has an unshirkable responsibility to reconcile the country when he enters office.
Many foresee the US having difficult relations with China under his leadership, especially if he honors his campaign vow to impose punitive tariffs of up to 45 percent against Chinese goods, which would surely result in a trade war erupting between the two countries. However, one should consider that Trump is a businessman first and foremost, and he has already worked with the Chinese side for over three decades, regardless of any differences in political opinions. And as president, he will need to be pragmatic.
Indeed, it is reasonable to expect fair practice in conducting business. President-elect Trump should be mindful that although his campaign rhetoric has taken him to the White House, it will ruin his presidency if he tries to put it into practice. It is highly unrealistic to expect to impose upon others without backlash. Actually, the arbitration mechanism of the World Trade Organization is already in place to reconcile trade disputes among member states. There is no reason or conceivable benefit for the Trump administration to bypass it.
The three main issues that cause friction between China and the US are human rights, trade and security. Again, as a business-man, Trump might take a more practical rather than ideological approach, while still respecting US values. As China has also toned down its attachment to ideology in terms of external relationships, the two countries might be better able to reconcile their differences under the Trump administration.
Turning to regional security, China is just safeguarding its territory and rights in the East China Sea and South China Sea, not attempting to impede any of the US’ so-called freedom of navigation operations in the region. China has persistently proposed to resolve the territorial and maritime disputes it has with some of its neighbors through peaceful means, and has so far managed to shelve the disputes with the Philippines and Malaysia.
Therefore, the Trump administration might keep away from the disputes. Meantime, Donald Trump has pressed Japan and the Republic of Korea to share more of the costs of deploying US forces in these countries. He has indicated he would be inclined to bring some of the forces home should Japan and the ROK decline to pay up.
As US president, Trump will have to overcome a tendency of strategic short-sightedness by continuing to present public goods in the Asia-Pacific region and not seeking hegemony. To sum up, the election of Trump as the next leader of the US presents both opportunities and challenges. As long as he adheres to a pragmatic approach, his administration can hopefully build up a collaborative and mutually beneficial partnership with China and other countries.
His lack of experience and over-confidence bring uncertainties and could cause him frustration that might lead to impulsiveness. But at present, Sino-US relations are waiting to write a new chapter and it remains to be seen what will be written.
US economy can’t boom without China
By Cheng Shi
Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over his rival Hillary Clinton in this year’s US presidential election, once again, proves that so-called elitism and main-stream politics are somewhat out-dated. It is a foreseeable outcome following the rise of populism, isolationism, and protectionism worldwide and the declining global growth. Despite the criticisms and controversies surrounding Trump, he is not the extremist that many media outlets have presented him as. An inclination to pragmatic governance may benefit the US economy in the long run.
The tight race caused instant turbulence in financial markets. The Mexican peso tumbled over 13 percent, its biggest drop in over two decades, and the US dollar dropped 3 percent against the yen and 2.1 percent against the euro, giving rise to concerns about the world’s largest economy.
The truth is, the backbone of the US economy has been and will always be endogenous growth. It is unlikely to be replaced no matter who runs the country. The biggest economic challenge facing the country is the fact that the US Federal Reserve is being less prudent under the watch of its chair-woman Janet Yellen. As for the China-US economic ties, Trump’s pragmatic nature may be both a challenge and an opportunity.
Sea change unlikely in military ties
By Fan Jishe
Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election may have shocked many scholars at home and abroad. But it will not necessarily dampen the prospect of China-US military cooperation, which has made notable progress in the past few years. The two sides added the air-space encounter safety code and military crisis notification to their military agreements during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States last September. Besides, the number of drills held by the two countries’ militaries over the past three years has exceeded those before 2013.
Trump’s victory is unlikely to change the two countries’ basic military relations. His military policy, however, remains uncertain because he did not talk much about it during the election campaign. China-US relations are becoming more complicated but more stable, and may undergo transition after Trump unveils his political agenda, presumably three months after he assumes office in January.
In all likelihood, Trump will increase military expenditure while refraining from expanding his country’s military presence overseas, as he has hinted that the US’ allies should shoulder more responsibilities. China and the US, on the other hand, may have to deal with a series of uncertainties in regard to military exchanges before Trump’s military strategy takes shape. But given the two trust-building mechanisms between the two countries, a sea change is not expected in Sino-US military ties.
Silent majority beats louder minority
The result of the US presidential election has shattered the dream of those who expected Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to win. Given that the US’ political system is designed to limit and divide the majority, it appears Trump represents the “silent majority” while Clinton speaks for the “vociferous minority”.
Still, American voters’ decision has gone against a number of experts’ predications and opinion polls. The silent crowd, long absent in the country’s game of power, stood up to the interest groups and their followers. The rise of social media allowed those ignored ones to mobilize support for the candidate who they thought spoke for them. And the result shows their political participation has greater potential to sway the presidential election when the country is busy dealing with a slew of problems.
Quite surprisingly, the US elites were outmaneuvered by the majority instead of marginalizing the latter through back-door operations. Admittedly, populism is more likely to be the deciding factor when more people participate in democratic events, even if the outcome may not be the best. The result might be hard to swallow for many, but it is how the US democracy works.
Moreover, Trump’s presidency could be a boon for China-US relations. The president-elect is a typical businessman who always puts tangible gains before hollow promises. In other words, it is possible that he would pull the brakes on his predecessor Barack Obama’s” rebalancing to Asia-Pacific” strategy, even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, to avoid clashing with China, the world’s second-largest economy. Rather, his focus could be on building pragmatic ties with China. But in the long run, his supporters expect him to revive the manufacturing sector in the US, and that could exert extra pressure on China’s industrialization.



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