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Study: Managing China relationship most consequential to US

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-21 09:51

US President Donald Trump and his new administration apparently are delivering on bold or specific campaign promises, such as curbing immigration, creating jobs for Americans, repealing and replacing Obamacare and rebuilding American infrastructures.

Meanwhile, we should not be oblivious to Trump's many China-related assertions during his campaign: China is stealing American jobs, manipulating its currency and engaging in unfair trade practices, among others.

America's relationship with China is undoubtedly more complicated and would probably take Trump more than one or two executive orders to, first of all, accurately depict the nature of such a deeply intertwined relationship; and then roll out a reliable and consistent road map to deepen the relationship, which will not only benefit the world's two largest economies but the rest of the globe.

Study: Managing China relationship most consequential to US

In their analysis and recommendations titled President Trump's Asia Inbox, which was released in early February, eight scholars at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) utilized their collective expertise in order to "offer fresh insights about key issues of US-Asia relations, including how to address a rising China, alliance management, the South China Sea, and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, to name a few areas of interest", said Gi-Wook Shin, director of the center, in the preface of the publication.

Thomas Fingar, one of the Shorenstein fellows with his research focused on the US-China relationship, said managing America's multifaceted relationship with China is arguably the most consequential foreign policy challenge facing the new administration.

"The stakes include stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region, more than $500 billion in bilateral trade, constraining nuclear weapons in North Korea, and the ability of the United States to work transnational issues in/through the United Nations. Campaign rhetoric complicates matters by raising fears and expectations at home and abroad," he continued.

The Obama administration made a big mistake in the way it responded to China's establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), said Fingar.

"Declaring US willingness to join would demonstrate willingness to correct this Obama mistake, signal desire to cooperate with China when it is in US interest to do so, and help restore regional confidence in Washington's ability to manage relations with China in a way that helps states in the region to counterbalance Chinese influence while taking advantage of Beijing's willingness to invest in infrastructure," said Fingar.

"If China agrees to US membership (highly likely), we gain insight into and a voice in the bank's operations and score points with others in the region. If China demurs, it will be pressed by other members (including our allies in Europe) to accept the US. With all countries, the new administration wins credit for trying."

In a recently concluded seminar held at the University of San Francisco on China's Belt and Road Initiative, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1989-1992) Chas Freeman said it has been a "foolish forfeiture of US influence" for the US not having agreed to join any of the new banks or funds led or heavily involved by China - AIIB, the New Development Bank, the South-South Cooperation Fund, the Maritime Silk Road Management Fund and the Maritime Silk Road Bank which boast a combined capital of $300 billion and will add $60 billion to $75 billion to annual lending for infrastructure projects in Asia and its periphery.

"We must hope that the Trump administration - with its emphasis on manufacturing jobs - will find a way to work with China to the advantage of American business. This will be hard if the US has started a trade war with China," warned Freeman, who served as the main interpreter for President Richard Nixon during his historic China visit in 1972.

Stanford scholars also suggested that the US should respond to Chinese actions in Asia "inimical to American interests in ways that protect our interests, achieve US goals shared by others in the region, and avoid both the reality and the appearance of being 'anti-China'", and reaffirm American commitments to allies and partners including the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

International relations observer George Koo believes that Trump must collaborate with China in order to "make America great again". It will be crucial for the Trump administration to see the essential value of collaborating with China and continue to build on the economic cooperation, said Koo.

He cited Fuyao Glass, China's largest auto glass supplier, and its continuous investment in Ohio as an illuminating example.

Fuyao bought an old GM plant in Ohio for $15 million and will have invested $450 million and created 2,500 local jobs. It's expected to generate $25 million to $30 million monthly revenue for the Ohio economy and bring technical innovations, such as sun-blocking, energy saving glasses, embedded wire, heating glass and solar glass, to the US market.

"Many other Chinese companies are looking to invest in the US for the same reasons" such as being close to assembly plants, saving the shipping cost and maintaining satisfying customer relations, said Koo, adding such decision was driven by sensible business considerations instead of the desire to just pleasing President Trump.

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(China Daily USA 02/21/2017 page2)

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