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.
Trump on China, 7 years and 400-plus tweets later
Why do we continue to sit idly by while China steals our national security and corporate secrets? China is an enemy, not a friend.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2011
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.
President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade. China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become Reciprocal & a deal will be made on Intellectual Property. Great future for both countries!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
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.
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.
We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S. Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 4, 2018
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.
When a car is sent to the United States from China, there is a Tariff to be paid of 2 1/2%. When a car is sent to China from the United States, there is a Tariff to be paid of 25%. Does that sound like free or fair trade. No, it sounds like STUPID TRADE - going on for years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 9, 2018
That complaint has gone back as far as in a 2012 tweet.
China has been unfairly subsidizing the export of cars & auto parts. I've been saying this for 3 years...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2012
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's corporate espionage is a continued threat to the American economy. With the right leadership, it can be stopped.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2011
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.
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.
China's new AND ADVANCED currency manipulation is killing the U.S. Help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2012
China keeps manipulating its currency at our financial expense. Why do our leaders continually let China run all over us?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2013
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.
Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
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.