Millennium Post

Trump's trade jump to lash China

Occasionally, yes, toughness does involve some old-fashioned ass-kicking," Donald Trump mused in 'Surviving at the Top'. In his dealings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, though, the US President has until recently preferred to kiss, as he fawned after their first date in April at his Mar-a-Lago estate: "I really liked him a lot. I think he liked me. We have a great chemistry together." But as the pair prepares for their second tête-à-tête on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg this week, the passion appears to be fading. "So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning before setting off for Europe on Air Force One. After a brief and unusual honeymoon, relations between the world's top two economies are veering towards the rocks after Xi and Trump failed to find common ground over how to rein in North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Trump is grappling with the limits of his strategy to rely on China to get North Korea to limit its nuclear and ICBM programs following Kim's July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The US President must now decide whether the test, coupled with the death last month of an American college student who had been imprisoned in North Korea, means giving up on collaboration and more directly confronting Beijing.

Those advocating a hard line within the administration are emboldened by the recent North Korean actions, and the White House is weighing a series of gestures that could antagonize President Xi Jinping's government. But, Trump's options are limited by practical and economic realities. The President must calibrate a response that would prompt Chinese pressure on Kim without causing difficult repercussions for US interests. Trump must also convince Beijing he's willing to follow through on his threats, particularly after Chinese authorities appeared to shrug off promises to solve the North Korean issue on his own, if necessary. Trump has expressed increasing exasperation with China on Twitter. If Trump does want to ratchet up direct pressure on China, he may move to increase sanctions on Chinese banks. He could resort to another campaign promise – protecting the U.S. steel industry – to needle China. Of course, he must be re-evaluating the United States trade relationship with Beijing, in light of the growing provocations from Pyongyang. He even plans to hold meetings on the sidelines with Xi, as well as with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. He suggested that American trade agreements should be contingent on such cooperation.
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