Donald Trump proves to be a great friend of China
In substantial policy areas of free trade and currency, the South China Sea, climate change and clean energy, and the long-standing US foreign policy of anti-communist containment, it would be impossible for the Chinese to find a better man in the White House
As the US administration of Donald Trump unravels before our very eyes, none is perhaps more alarmed and disappointed than Beijing. Much has been made about his tilt towards Russia and his personal admiration for Vladimir Putin. But in substantial policy areas of free trade and currency, the South China Sea, climate change and clean energy, and the long-standing US foreign policy of anti-communist containment, it would be impossible for the Chinese to find a better man in the White House.
For all his bombast against China as a presidential candidate, one of his first significant policy directives once he was in office was to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Washington-led free-trade pact with 11 Pacific countries that deliberately excluded China.
Instead, Trump delivered a bilateral trade deal with China last week that secured America’s tacit endorsement of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative which the previous administration of Barack Obama had kept at arm’s length. In return, the Chinese have rehashed the old promises of lifting a ban on US beef and opening the mainland market to foreign credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. The latter promise was made back when China was admitted into the World Trade Organisation in late 2001.
And while Obama had threatened to hold China accountable to an adverse international tribunal ruling brought on by the Philippines against its claims over much of the South China Sea, Trump appears not even to know about the judgment.
But perhaps the greatest value Trump provides is in terms of public opinion on the world stage. While he poses himself as an oil-and-coal advocate, the state-run sector in China is stepping up already massive investment in clean and alternative energy. At the same time, Xi is posing himself as a defender of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change just as Trump threatens to take America out of it.
Likewise, the leader of the world’s most powerful communist party is openly advocating free trade and foreign aid while America’s commander-in-chief has been shooting them down.
There was no doubt that during the US presidential race, Beijing preferred Hillary Clinton to win because she was a known quantity while Trump was the wild card. But he has proved to be such a great friend of China, albeit inadvertently. It would be a shame to see him go.