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Trump needs a rational China policy

By Ma Shikun | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-13 08:50
Luo Jie | China Daily

Would "revisionist" be an appropriate term to describe US President Donald Trump?

Among the baseless things in the recently issued US National Security Strategy is an allegation that China and Russia are "revisionist" states that erode the security and economic interests of the United States. But, given his reckless rewriting and "re-evaluation" of the international status quo in his first year in office, Trump himself could more rightly be called a "revisionist".

He has "revised" (or withdrawn from) various international agreements that are not to his liking. He "killed" the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement saying it is a burden on the US, withdrew from the 2015 Paris climate agreement claiming there is no global warming, pulled out of UNESCO on the grounds that it is unfair to the US and Israel, and withdrew from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations between the European Union and the US. He also intends to renegotiate the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement, has threatened to revoke the Iran nuclear deal, has been criticizing the United Nations and threatening to cut US funds to it, and clamoring to rewrite international trade rules to replace "free trade" with "fair trade".

At home, Trump is opposed to everything his predecessor Barack Obama stood for, creating the impression he is determined to eradicate each and every of Obama's political legacies. He has not only brushed aside the "partnership" Obama had formulated with China and labeled China as a "competitor", but also upended the diplomatic strategy followed by past US presidents to confront Beijing and Moscow.

In less than 12 months, Trump has talked with President Xi Jinping on the phone nine times. During his China visit in November, he expressed a strong desire to deepen bilateral ties. He even told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that getting along with China will benefit all countries in the Asia-Pacific.
Yet China has been labeled a "strategic competitor" in the US National Security Strategy, which claims, without any factual basis, that China seeks to drive the US out of the Asia-Pacific.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly said the Pacific is big enough to accommodate China and the US both. The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has kept its doors open to the US, and Beijing has welcomed Washington to join the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, demonstrating its desire to enhance cooperation with the US.

The US strategy report also accuses China of expanding its own power at the cost of other countries' sovereignty, in reference to the South China Sea issue. But the truth is China's relations with the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have improved significantly, and the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea now has a framework. Also, China and ASEAN member states have agreed to build a higher-level partnership, and a China-ASEAN community of shared future.

The US strategy report alludes to the Diaoyu Islands issue, too. However, the Chinese Coast Guard's increasing patrols near the Diaoyu Islands are meant to safeguard China's territorial and maritime sovereignty, and ensure Chinese fishermen enjoy their fishing rights in the surrounding areas.

The strategy report's portrayal of China contradicts previous US statements. Why? US media commentators have some interesting explanations.
An article in the Dec 18 edition of The Daily Beast, titled "Trump's National Security Strategy ignores Donald Trump", says the strategy report is "basically fan fiction, written by aides". "It is as if (National Security Advisor H.R) McMaster ... has subtly replaced the Trump presidency as it is… with the Trump presidency he wishes."

And Foreign Policy magazine has said that in reality the strategy report submitted to US Congress will either be forgotten soon, or will never be implemented.

Such ideas may not be groundless. If that is the case, Trump should rise above such reports, cease to be blinded by his aides, who are either muddleheaded or are intentionally making trouble for him, and deal with China in a cool-headed way.

The author is a senior journalist with the People's Daily.

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