What does China want the most from a Donald Trump presidency? Stability.
China-US relations won’t go through any major change under president Trump, because the world’s two biggest economies must ensure “healthy development” in economy and trade to fulfill their interests, predicts a commentary (link in Chinese) published today (Nov. 10) on the front page of the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, China’s state mouthpiece.
“In today’s world, it is a fact that China and the US must ‘cooperate or perish’,” Wen Xian, former chief correspondent of the newspaper’s North America bureau, wrote. He explained that “a typical embodiment of the blending interests” of the two sides is increasing bilateral trade volume, which is expected to reach $1 trillion in 2024.
Trump’s China-bashing remarks during his electoral campaign, which include labeling China a currency manipulator and threatening a 45% tariff on exports to the US, could now translate into actual policy. Markets are watching what pain Trump could cause to China, and the rest of the world.
Beijing seems to be trying to set some ground rules. President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory telegram to Trump that emphasizes (link in Chinese) the two sides should uphold the principles of “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” and “control differences in a constructive manner.” In contrast, back in 2012, then president Hu Jintao offered his congratulations to Barack Obama noting the “positive progress” in bilateral relations over the past four years. “You and I have reached consensus in…exploring a new type of major power relationship,” Hu said.
State media have warned Trump against starting trade wars with China. “If Trump wants to target bilateral trade, he should first weigh the consequences of China’s countermeasures,” reads an Nov. 9 editorial from the nationalistic state tabloid Global Times, which sometimes echoes the government officials’ unspoken views.
In a separate piece published on Nov. 10, the Global Times cited analysts saying Trump’s policies may cause headwinds to China’s economy, but could also “help ease the pressure on yuan depreciation and capital outflows and help with ongoing efforts to upgrade China’s industrial sectors.”
State media also argued that China could be a winner under a Trump presidency, because it is likely to focus more on domestic issues. Beijing has criticized Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” strategy raised under her tenure as Secretary of State. Trump is not likely to embrace the same idea as he is “more practical and flexible in foreign policy, compared to his rival,” said state broadcaster CCTV said on Nov. 10.
“Trump may not be as strongly adverse to a ‘win-win’ scenario with China as the previous US political establishment,” read the Nov. 9 Global Times editorial.
The US political system, after all, is “chaotic and split,” and both Trump and Clinton were just “rotten apples” in the election, according to CCTV’s 26-minute documentary (link in Chinese, registration required), which was aired in China as the US election results came in. The film interviewed Chinese scholars, US citizens, and former state officials to criticize the electoral college system and “so-called US democracy”.