What would Trump bring on China?

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-4 21:43:01

Donald Trump waves at the end of his speech after his Indiana primary victory at Trump Tower on Tuesday, 2016 in New York City. Photo: CFP

Editor's Note:

After a landslide victory in Indiana's Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump has become the Republican nominee in all but name as Ted Cruz dropped out. Global Times invited eight Chinese scholars to comment on the possible influence of Trump's win to Sino-US relationship.

Jin Canrong, deputy dean of School of International Studies, Renmin University of China (RUC)

Most observers so far still believe Hillary Clinton will win the US presidential election in November. Donald Trump supporters are not typical voters and the majority of potential voters don't believe in him. There is a fair chance that Clinton will win the race. 

Trump has injected an entertainment element into the US presidential primaries, which helped him win massive fans in China. However, US voters will be more serious toward the elections. They will take into account the national fate when making the voting decision.

No matter who is elected to the White House, we should have confidence in the Sino-US relations. Even if Trump wins, bilateral relations will continue to develop on a stable track. As its national strength booms, China has become more capable to shape the trajectory of the Sino-US relationship. The change of US leadership won't bring any major structural changes to the bilateral relationship.

Wang Yiwei, director of Institute of International Affairs, RUC

There have been speculations that the US presidential race will be Trump vs. Clinton. But many uncertainties still linger concerning whether Trump has any hope of winning the race.

Chinese regard Trump as a clown, funny and unscrupulous. But some Americans deem him the hope of the US. Trump represents the anti-establishment. That if Trump is elected will be an indication of the innovation and flexibility of the US system. Trump's fans seem to be supporting him because they believe the US system should be inclusive to anti-establishment forces. Americans hung their hopes on change when they voted for Obama. Now the US is confronted with myriad problems and some pin their hopes on the anti-establishment forces to save the US.

Trump has used China-bashing to woo voters on many occasions. It's hard to say whether he will turn his sensational speeches against China into reality after he is elected. I think Trump as US president will be good for the Sino-US relations. Trump sticks to isolationism when it comes to foreign policy. He doesn't want the US to bear so many global responsibilities. In contrast, Clinton initiated the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy which is aimed at containing China.

Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University

Trump is unlikely to win the general election. The business tycoon is not popular among Democrats. Viewed by many as politically incorrect, the US mainstream doesn't approve of his future.

If elected, the businessman is expected to be practical and flexible in his foreign policies. However, the Republican's victory is no good news for the Sino-US relationship. First of all, to defeat the ruling Democratic party, Republicans will criticize current US policies, including those related to China, demanding the White House to be tougher on Beijing. If it wins, Republicans will be pressured to take a hard stance against China, striking a blow to the China-US relationship.

In addition, a Republican victory will see major personnel changes in the White House. The newly-appointed officials will have to make a fresh start to keep contact and build close ties with Chinese officials. The handover work may cause problems in the China-US communications. In comparison with Republicans, a Democratic victory will exert less influence on the Sino-US relationship, as their policies and personnel are more stable.

However, it seems that Chinese citizens prefer Trump to Clinton. This is understandable as the latter has criticized China a number of times over the cyber security, human rights and so forth. Trump, on the other hand, is a mystery to Chinese. Although he has expressed dissatisfaction with the current US China policies, he looks forward to strengthening ties with China as well.

Zhao Minghao, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and an adjunct fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at RUC

Behind the rising of Trump are the angry Americans and divided voters. Fans are supporting Trump because of his act of rebellion. Anti-establishment now has become a universal trend across the globe, with an increasing number of people frustrated by elites who manipulate decision-making.

Many of Trump's speeches against China are mere claptrap and have been widely questioned not only by Chinese scholars, but also US ones. Trump said the US is "going to lose $500 billion in terms of trade" to China. The figure isn't correct. The US trade deficit last year was $366 billion with China. Merely interpreting the US trade relations with China from the perspective of balance sheet cannot reflect the real picture of bilateral trade. If the US uses radical trade polices against China, this will not only hurt the interests of US consumers and enterprises, but also impair the whole global trade system.

It's hard to say whether China-bashing represents Trump's real attitude. There is a possibility that Trump will change if he is elected as president. The China-US relationship cannot be easily shaken no matter who will become president.

Shao Yuqun, director of the Center for American Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

The Sino-US relationship will see fluctuations after the election. Trump's "America First" position is characterized by its strong isolationist tendency. With plans of giving up the alliance system, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals, isolationist thoughts will have a tremendous influence on the US global hegemony. However, whether Trump's words will be translated into foreign policy remains unclear. Compared with Trump, Clinton's China policy is predictable. Although Clinton is expected to be tough on China, she is highly likely to inherit Obama's legacies if elected. Keeping contact with China for years, Clinton is familiar to Chinese policy makers as well.

At present, China and the US are highly interdependent in terms of economy and trade. Any attempt by the new administration to contain China will backfire. China should continue to develop the bilateral economic relationship after the election. Meanwhile, China should put more efforts into evaluating Trump's isolationist tendency and make corresponding policy adjustments based on it.

Zhu Feng, executive director and professor at China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea

Trump has a 30 percent chance to win the final election. First of all, he has to overcome a number of thresholds to win the Republican nomination, for instance, to triumph in other key states. In addition, the US elites believe that Clinton is more suitable than Trump to be the US president. Whether Trump can win the support of these elites remains unclear at the current stage. It is not an easy task for Trump to overcome all these thresholds.

No matter which party is elected, the Sino-US relationship will definitely see fluctuations after the election. Obviously, the new government will take a tougher stance against Beijing. The current competition and confrontations between China and the US in security is likely to bring adjustments and changes to new administration's policies.

However, Trump and Clinton differ from each other in their foreign policies. While Trump is expected to put more emphasis on economy and finance, and be tougher on Beijing in this regard, Clinton is likely to take a harder stance against China in security if elected.

Qiu Chaobing, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

As Trump has gone much farther than expected in the 2016 US presidential election, discussions about how he shapes his China policy are becoming more serious than before.

As a competitive candidate full of personality, Trump might bring more individualism in his China policy, but he has to balance the different appeals of US society. For example, Trump might have vowed to impose trade protectionism to protect US industries, especially against China, but as an unswerving advocate of free trade for decades, the US won't make a U-turn in cases like this. Besides, China's interactions with the US will also be important parameters for the "Trump government" to define the bilateral ties.

If Trump is elected, this will definitely be a huge impact on US society. But it doesn't mean there will be a snafu in US politics and diplomacy.

Diao Daming, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies, CASS

It is hard to predict who will have the last laugh. Trump will have to face a remodeling process by the Republicans. He will seek the biggest consensus with the Republican establishment, Tea Party and conservatives in order to represent the entire GOP. Thus, Trump's campaign team will likely shift to pragmatism in elaborating his policies.

The Sino-US relations, if Trump wins the election, will generally follow the established path and won't face a lot of fluctuations, in spite of his many lurid accusations against China, which are more like electoral rhetoric. His advocacy of nativism and isolationism is also a common approach adopted by US politicians during elections, and will surrender to pragmatism in real actions.

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