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China-US relations

Xi Jinping should draw on Taoist and Buddhist wisdom to manage the trade war

  • The Chinese president’s growing power and grand plans for the country are opposed by not just Trump but Democrats as well, indicating it may be time to retreat
  • Xi has quoted Taoist teachings in the past, but he would do well to be inspired by maxims that stress humility
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 3:19am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 3:18am

Having read David Zweig’s article “Not just ‘containment’: America’s real goal may be to undermine China’s Communist Party” (October 20), I would like to share my views on the unfolding trade war. At first, the trade war between the United States and China was attributed to the trade imbalance, the discontent arising from globalisation and China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. But US Vice-President Mike Pence’s speech at the Hudson Institute was candid and crystal clear about the underlying reasons for the US viewing China as its number one rival.

President Xi Jinping’s assertiveness in challenging the US rang the death knell for the engagement strategy designed by former president Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Actually, Trump is just a faithful follower of Nixon and even the Democrats would toe the same line if they replace Trump in the next election. Therefore, there will certainly be no difference in the bipartisan stance on this issue, though there may be some variation in how the issue is handled.

After midterms, Donald Trump has no incentive to quit his trade war

It is obvious that Xi’s diplomatic and foreign policies have taken a U-turn from Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of lying low. After Xi assumed office, becoming the most powerful man in China by holding three concurrent titles – general secretary of the Communist Party, chairman of the Central Military Commission and head of state, he quoted some Taoist teachings, such as “governing a big country is just like cooking a small fish”.

If President Xi is greatly affected by Taoism, he might look into some other words of wisdom such as “shrinking from assuming precedence over others”, which highlights how, by being humble one can be the most useful. Had he kept that thought in mind, the trade war would not have reached its fever pitch.

It is both fortunate and unfortunate when an opponent reveals all his cards, as Pence did, because it means you have to think carefully before making your next move. This brings to mind the Buddhist exhortation that “retreating is going forward”. Retreating allows you to reassess yourself and the situation before making a decision. Even compromise or reconciliation can be a good strategy because the changes resulting from a bad decision could be irreversible. Think twice before you leap.

Lo Wai Kong, Yau Ma Tei