Inkstone
    Apr
    11
    2018
    Apr
    11
    2018
    Trump on China, 7 years and 400-plus tweets later
    Trump on China, 7 years and 400-plus tweets later
    POLITICS

    Trump on China, 7 years and 400-plus tweets later

    Triangle 4
    arrow left
    arrow right
    by
    Toh Han Shih
    Toh Han Shih
    Subscribe to the Inkstone newsletter
    By registering you must agree to our T&Cs

    Ever since US President Donald Trump began regularly tweeting about China, in 2011, he has called the country an “enemy” of the US – seven times, to be exact.

    But as the two countries look increasingly locked in a tit-for-tat trade spat, Trump’s tone has warmed toward China’s leader, President Xi Jinping.

    Subscribe to the Inkstone newsletter
    By registering you must agree to our T&Cs

    Inkstone took a look at Trump’s tweets about China over the past seven years – more than 400 of them. They suggest that despite his friendly tone toward President Xi, Trump has kept up a consistently hard line against China in terms of trade.

    By putting pressure on China but giving Xi leeway, Trump is trying to take credit for Xi’s promise of opening his country’s economy, said Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University.

    “Now he can claim that his ‘art of deal’ has been effective,” he told Inkstone.

    Whether Trump (and China) is willing to compromise – and how – will determine how the world’s two largest economies can resolve a trade conflict that could destabilize the global economy.

    Donald Trump reads a printed-out version of a tweet by Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk before signing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
    Donald Trump reads a printed-out version of a tweet by Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk before signing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

    Trade gap

    Trump sees his country’s trade deficit with China as a weakness and harmful to the US economy, and has repeatedly criticized the previous administration for not doing something about it.

    In the past month, he has cited the trade imbalance as a reason to impose further tariffs on Chinese goods.

    He also sees certain trade arrangements between the two countries as unfairly favorable to China, such as the higher tariffs that China levies on American cars than the US applies to Chinese cars.

    That complaint has gone back as far as in a 2012 tweet.

    Donald Trump using a landline, instead of his customary smartphone.
    Donald Trump using a landline, instead of his customary smartphone. Photo: AP/Alex Brandon

    Intellectual property

    In ordering punitive tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese exports to the US, Trump took aim at what he said was China’s theft of American intellectual property, technology and trade secrets.

    China has denied that its policy forces foreign companies in the country to turn over technology to Chinese companies, an accusation that Trump as well as previous administrations have leveled at the Chinese government.

    Donald Trump, making remarks by microphone instead of Twitter.
    Donald Trump, making remarks by microphone instead of Twitter. Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb

    Currency manipulation

    Trump has also accused China of manipulating its currency to keep it deliberately undervalued, saying that it did so in order to make exports to the US cheaper and therefore more competitive.

    Trump last mentioned that on Twitter last year, when he backed away from a campaign promise to label China as a currency manipulator, ostensibly because the two countries were working together in sanctioning North Korea.

    It suggests that although Trump has stood his ground on his accusations of China’s unfair trade practices, an about-face on his part is not at all unimaginable.

    TOH HAN SHIH
    COLUMNIST
    TOH HAN SHIH
    Han Shih is a contributor to Inkstone. He was senior Asia correspondent of MLex, a media organization focusing on regulatory risk, from 2015 to 2018. Prior to that, he was a reporter at the South China Morning Post for roughly 10 years.

    TOH HAN SHIH
    COLUMNIST
    TOH HAN SHIH
    Han Shih is a contributor to Inkstone. He was senior Asia correspondent of MLex, a media organization focusing on regulatory risk, from 2015 to 2018. Prior to that, he was a reporter at the South China Morning Post for roughly 10 years.

    arrow right
      Rotate the screen
      Please rotate for best experience.
      Your privacy is important. We wish to inform you what data we collect from you and how we process such data. Our Privacy Notice aims to comply with all relevant data privacy and protection laws. You should read the Privacy Notice in full here.