Don’t be misled by Trump’s tweets, bravura

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/8 23:58:40

US President-elect Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that he would appoint Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as the next US ambassador to China. Trump said Branstad's long-time relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the "ideal choice" for the post.

Branstad received Xi in 1985 and 2012, and visited China several times as governor. He was referred to as an "old friend" of China by the Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday. His nomination at this time has indicated a lot.

Trump's recent phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen and tweets about the South China Sea issue have aroused concerns about possible volatility in China-US relations after he is sworn in. He has met much opposition and criticism within the US and also in China. A dim outlook on bilateral ties casts a shadow on both countries. But this is eased somewhat by the Branstad nomination.

Some consider this is the Trump team's balancing tactic and reveals one facet of his willingness to talk and cooperate with China. 

Although observers say China-US relations can be no better or worse than they are now, the recent week shows that public opinion tends to take very seriously the possible impact of a specific matter or detail in bilateral relations.

Trump is an expert in making waves. His Twitter feed is more intriguing than press briefings from the State Department or Pentagon. He has almost dominated the world's attention on US diplomacy even before taking office. His intensive tweeting tinged with strong bravura needs to be parsed carefully.

Branstad's appointment will surely benefit China-US ties. After all, it makes a difference if an ambassador comes with a nice memory of China and goodwill to promote bilateral ties, not stereotypes and bias.

But we can't raise too much expectation over the nomination. Despite the importance, the US ambassador to China is unable to shape and make the call about his country's policy on China. The policy is more subject to the White House, State Department and Pentagon. Nonetheless, an amicable ambassador can help Washington make the policy in a calm way, and Branstad is expected to assume the role.

What's more important is how to handle the challenges arising in the Trump era. We can't be frightened by Trump's bully-boy tactics and picture him as a rival that is so hard to defeat. Neither can we be delighted that his nomination of Branstad may herald a bright future for China-US relations.

The businessman-turned president only eyes the results. A win-win result entices Trump more than having both sides suffer. A better way to deal with him is to let him and his team know exactly where the boundary lies if they don't want to pay a cost.

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