Date
16 September 2019
By forcing China into a corner, Trump is actually helping the rival, from a long-term perspective, an observer says. Photo: Reuters
By forcing China into a corner, Trump is actually helping the rival, from a long-term perspective, an observer says. Photo: Reuters

Why Trump is doing China a favor with his tough stance

Chinese netizens have given Trump a nickname Chuan Jianguo, which means “Trump helps build China” in Chinese.

They joked that Trump has forced Beijing to open up markets, improve intellectual property rights protection, give bigger say to private economy and ease up on some cyber controls, moves that would actually benefit China.

As the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei, preventing the firm from securing US components and technologies, the ban would leave China with little choice but to put more effort into building its own core technologies.

Such initiatives could isolate the US tech sector and benefit China over the long run.

Of course, it would take time for that to happen and China would have to go through an extended painful period before reaping such benefit.

If the US ropes in allies such as the EU and Japan for drastic China containment measures, Beijing might be forced to cave in. But the worse-case scenario won’t happen, as Trump is also picking fights with numerous traditional partners, leaving China with more breathing space.

Some observers have compared Trump to Chinese leader Mao Zedong, as both are bellicose.

While waging a trade and technology war against China, Trump is also taking a tough stance against EU and Japan in trade talks, while stepping up sanctions on Iran, putting pressure on Mexico, as well as planning to end special trade treatment for India.

Trump’s strategy may simply reflect his character. But it is also possible that he is doing all these to divert public attention from the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and get prepared for his reelection campaign.

At the same time, Trump could also be eyeing immediate economic results such as job creation and trade deficit reduction.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 4

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist