China braced for ‘bumpy ride’ ahead with Trump

By Zhang Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/20 0:18:39

Analysts urge China to maintain composure toward new president

The sun sets on the West Front of the US Capitol building ahead of inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday in Washington, DC. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th US president Friday. Photo: AFP

The sun sets on the West Front of the US Capitol building ahead of inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday in Washington, DC. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th US president Friday. Photo: AFP

As an unconventional Donald Trump presidency becomes official on Friday, China is preparing for a bumpy ride ahead in its relations with the US, experts said.

After Trump takes office as the 45th US president, China-US relations will possibly first see a notable decline before experiencing a slight recovery, said Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies of Peking University.

"Conflict is inevitable; the key is to keep the conflict within a tolerable range and not to impinge on important common interests of the two countries," Jia told the Global Times, adding that China has long been preparing for difficult issues involving China-US bilateral relations.

China is fully prepared to face uncertainties in bilateral relations, both psychologically and economically, said Zhang Mingliang, a professor with the Southeast Asian Institute of Ji'nan University.

With a stable domestic political and social environment thanks to the mature administration of President Xi Jinping, China has gained a lot of experience and economic strength to deal with foreign relations, said Zhang. "The stability of the Chinese government will help the two sides through the adaptation period after the Trump administration kicks off," Zhang said, adding that China is willing to cooperate with the US to form a sound relationship between the world's two biggest economies.

In the face of possible challenges from Trump, Jia said, China should first maintain composure and not rush to make conclusions but observe more. In the meantime, China will uphold its bottom line, including the one-China policy and other issues concerning sovereignty and territorial integrity.

President-elect Trump made a protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and also said on Twitter and to the media that "everything is under negotiation including one China." His provocative behavior immediately provoked an outcry from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which stated the one-China policy is the political foundation of bilateral ties and "non-negotiable."

"China is open to improving communication with the US to enhance cooperation in fields where the two sides can work together, and establish a conflict-control mechanism to deal with existing problems," Jia told the Global Times.

The Chinese public has reacted calmly, both online and offline, to Trump's remarks over China, but has followed the political and social scenarios surrounding Trump like a TV drama.

Hot spots

Among all potential hot spots, the Taiwan question will be the most sensitive topic between China and the US, but China will in no way concede or compromise on issues concerning core national interests, experts said.

"Trump may again make unpredictable remarks and actions on the Taiwan question after he takes office, but he will likely choose not to publicly challenge the one-China policy," said Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan-affairs expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. For decades, the US government has abided by its commitments on the principles of the Three Joint Communiqués between China and the US. So if Trump wants to act as a sophisticated politician rather than an adventurous businessman, he will possibly go back to respect this framework after becoming president, Wang said.

So far China has held a restrained attitude toward Trump, out of respect to his position as US president-elect.

"It will be unwise and unfeasible for Trump to use the Taiwan question as a bargaining chip with China to gain benefits on business and trade," Wang said. Radical actions that challenge the one-China policy will provoke Beijing to respond strongly, including choosing not to cooperate with the US when dealing with significant international affairs.

A deteriorating China-US relationship will impede the world's peace and stability, Wang noted.  "If a trade war breaks out between China and the US, it will also be catastrophic for the US."

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