Trump administration’s specious China policy perfect illustration of US’ train-wreck diplomacy

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By Zhang Tengjun Source: Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Miles Yu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s key China policy advisor, talked about the Trump administration’s diplomatic legacy in a recent interview with VOA Chinese. He said the biggest achievement of the Trump administration is the change of the US’ China policy. On November 2, one day before the US presidential elections, the White House National Security Council released a policy document titled, “President Trump on China: Putting America First,” trumpeting the success of his China policy and claiming that Trump was one of the few prominent Americans “to recognize the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party and its threat to America’s economic and political way of life.”

The US Department of State’s Office of Policy Planning issued a 74-page report entitled “The Elements of the China Challenge” on November 17. The report plays up the “China challenge” and was believed to be a new version of George Kennan’s famous 1947 article that had a profound influence on the US strategy to deal with the then Soviet Union.

All these “dazzling” moves by the Trump administration is clearly an attempt to build its China policy into a signature diplomatic legacy before Trump steps down. The aim is to create as many obstacles as possible for the next administration’s relationship with China.

Based on Yu’s interview comments, Trump’s anti-China ambitions are very clear. The Trump administration has played both roles of hatchet man and referee on the issue of China. In so doing, it has made the China-US relations enter the worst period since the establishment of diplomatic ties. The Trump administration has had a disastrous effect on China-US relations and could hardly be properly construed by anyone as being a respectable “diplomatic legacy.”

First, there is a fundamental error in the Trump administration’s strategic positioning of China as a threat and adversary – which Yu claimed has been one of the administration’s greatest contributions. The two countries have never really positioned each other as adversaries. Every US government under either Republican or Democratic administrations had all understood the importance of developing stable and friendly relations with China. They had tried to put the relationship back on track after taking office if there had been any slippages. It is wise and rational to do so because win-win diplomacy is always the best way for the two’s final goals — despite normal conflicts and differences.

However, the Trump administration has rejected the past consensus. It has deliberately highlighted the differences between the two and portrayed China as an outlier to suppress. Such actions have been futile. It has not brought China to its knees. People like Yu should know that China’s rise cannot be changed by any external forces, and the policies toward Beijing influences the US far more than it does China. And clearly these failed policies will make the country lose direction.

Besides, Washington’s hysterical crackdown on China has discredited the US around the world, even in the eyes of its closest allies – whom were also bullied by it.

Yu takes delight in talking about how the Trump administration’s China policy is advanced with the times, and advocating sanctions as a means to apply results-oriented approach. This runs completely counter to the US-led liberal international order. It tramples on the basic norms governing international relations. Over the past four years, Washington has repeatedly set new limits against China, fanned flames of fear and lies, and tried its best to smear China. It initiated the tariff war and engaged in diplomatic sanctions. These actions have not only severely damaged China-US relations, but also shaken global and regional stability.

Most countries have now clearly understood the US’ intention to create a new cold war. The majority are unwilling to take sides, let alone join the US to openly contain China. The Trump administration’s diplomatic philosophy of “America First” has ruined its reputation in each and every country in the world. When Joe Biden was reported to have won the election, most allies of the US quickly sent congratulatory messages expressing their willingness to work with the new administration. This is a clear indication of how the current government has alienated itself from the international community.

The invalid China policy of Trump’s administration is becoming the best illustration of its failed train-wreck diplomacy. With less than two months to go, the Trump administration should stop smearing China and give up its pointless self-justifications. The right choice for the two countries is to return the driving seat over to people who can safely guide the development of sound bilateral relations.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies. [email protected]

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