Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks do not auger well for Sino-US ties in the coming year, Chinese analysts say
South China Morning Post
Donald Trump’s latest tweets accusing China of currency manipulation and militarising the South China Sea show the future US president’s lack of diplomatic skills, patience and economic common sense, according to Chinese analysts.
In an apparent defence of his protocol-breaking phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, the US president-elect tweeted on Sunday: “Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the US doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea. I don’t think so!”
While it’s understandable that Trump is trying to deliver a message that, whatever he does, he doesn’t need to inform China or care about what Beijing likes, he is neglecting the possible ramifications of his actions and words on Sino-US relations, analysts said.
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Zhang Yuquan, a researcher of American studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said Trump will have a steep learning curve in diplomacy given his lack of experience in the area, putting Sino-US ties on a bumpy start in 2017.
He added that “without doubt” tensions between the two countries will be very high as Trump settles in to his presidency, Zhang.
Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said Trump’s tweets reflected his bellicose personality and intolerance of criticism from the Democrats, the White House and China, even though the Chinese government has been largely restrained since he was elected.
“Trump is still not yet in office yet, so the Chinese government can’t react too much to him, but China can take certain action against Taiwan,” Jin said.
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Already, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has publicly blamed Taiwan for the phone call.
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Meanwhile, Trump’s comments blaming China for undervaluing the yuan were simply contrary to the facts, economists argued.
“If China’s monetary authority suspended intervention, the yuan would weaken further. China is not trying to devaluate the yuan but to prevent it from depreciating more,” said Zhao Yang, chief China economist at Nomura.
Trump’s views on China’s currency was “not in line with reality”, so it was better to leave the issue to professionals instead of politicians.
“The People’s Bank of China and the Federal Reserve should have communicated on the currency issue,” said Zhao.
Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said over the weekend that China did not meet the definition of currency manipulator, and the US Treasury Department under the Obama administration declined to label China as one.
“Trump treats politics as a businessman and fails to consider trade problems as part of a larger pattern, lacking long-term perspective and ignoring the benefits to US importers when he talks up possibility of trade barriers,” said Chen Long, an economist with the Bank of Dongguan, a bank in the Pearl River Delta.
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Donald Trump’s latest Twitter attack on Beijing has filtered through to China. Photograph by Greg Baker, AFP, Getty Images
“In everything he is better than Clinton,” commemorated Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations from Shanghai’s Fudan University. “We must welcome him.”
On Monday, as news of Trump’s latest Twitter attack on Beijing filtered through to China, where the social networking site is blocked by Communist party censors, that tune had changed.
“Ignorant. Distasteful,” snapped Shen when asked for his reaction to the president-elect’s 277-character outburst and his incendiary decision to engage with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on the telephone last Friday.
Shen, the deputy head of Fudan University’s institute of international affairs, said he had been outraged by Trump’s 10-minute call with the leader of Taiwan, a self-ruled island which China considers a renegade province.
“If he continues to call Taiwan a country we [should] sever relations with him,” the academic fumed. “I don’t know what the government would do [but] I know what I would do: I will close our embassy.”
Shi Yinhong, a Renmin University foreign policy expert, agreed the chances of a bitter and messy rupture between the US and China had increased following Sunday night’s tweets in which Trump again lashed out at Beijing’s alleged currency manipulation and construction of “a massive military complex” in the South China Sea.