US President-elect Donald Trump
appointed China hawk Peter Navarro as head of the new National Trade Council Wednesday. Navarro's public image is largely shaped by his three books about China: The Coming China Wars
, Death by China
, and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World
. An article in The New Yorker once said Navarro's views on trade and China were so radical that it's impossible to "find another economist who fully agrees with them."
Trump's Navarro pick is regarded as a signal that he will take more aggressive actions to promote his American interests first agenda. It's likely that the US will adopt reckless trade protectionist policies in future, causing changes to the pattern of the benefits distribution between the US and other countries.
Navarro advocated enhancing US protection of Taiwan. He also invited a Chinese dissident exiled in the US to write a preface for his book. Many Chinese people would regard him as an anti-China scholar. Will such a person leading the National Trade Council reinforce Trump's prejudice against China and trigger more frictions in bilateral trade and even the overall relationship?
Trump has entrusted Navarro with an important post. This is by no means a positive signal. China needs to face up to the reality that the Trump team maintains a hard-line attitude toward China. It must discard any illusions and make full preparations for any offensive move by the Trump government.
Trump chose Navarro not necessarily because of his anti-China stance. The president-elect's primary goal is to revive the US economy. He mistakenly attributes the US economic downturn and manufacturing job losses to globalization and he believes China's prosperity was stolen from the US. He will target all economies, including US allies.
It appears that the Trump team is anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits. The president-elect doesn't want strategic confrontation, nor does he have a high interest in ideological struggle. He only cares about interests. These will affect how China and the US will deal with each other as well as the appearance of future frictions.
China is powerful enough to withstand pressures from the Trump government. Beijing will get used to the tensions between the two countries. If Washington dares to provoke China over its core interests, Beijing won't fear setting up a showdown with the US, pressuring the latter to pay respect to China.
Despite ceaseless frictions, China must figure out what we are vying for with the US. Economic growth and social solidarity are the two determining factors for Sino-US competition. Trump flew the flag of reviving the US' manufacturing sector as soon as he won the election, reminding us that this is the basis for prosperity. China's achievements in the past should be attributed to the substantial development of the manufacturing sector, and the country cannot lose momentum in the future.
It is more important to address China's internal problems, especially its economic maladies, than to worry about Navarro's appointment. As long as China can maintain a robust economy and the Chinese are confident, China doesn't fear any challenges from outside. Longstanding issues such as the Taiwan question and the South China Sea disputes will be finally resolved when China's national strength is powerful enough.
Trump and his cabinet do not have more resources than his predecessors to drive his ambitions into actions. He will go back to the current world trade rules unless he wants to upend the hard-earned post-WWII order.
The US can no longer push China around today. We believe that the US political system is self-correctable, and won't tolerate a foreign policy that might put the world order in chaos and the Americans' interests in danger. Reversing globalization will never prevail.