President-elect Donald J. Trump has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese government since he launched his campaign for the presidency. For Trump, an essential ingredient to Make America Great Again has been to add less China. Throughout his campaign, the real-estate mogul has vowed to bring manufacturing jobs back from China to the U.S.
He’s also threatened to punish Beijing for unfair trade advantages and accused her of currency manipulation – among other things.
But now, the sleeping dragon seems to be awaking.
Trump may be one of Twitter’s loudest voices, but China has an entire state-run media beast behind it. And this week the tabloid Global Times published an editorial calling Trump out. It read, “There are flowers around the gate of China’s Ministry of Commerce, but there are also big sticks hidden inside the door ― they both await Americans.”
Tempting, but let’s not forget who Trump has by ringside. The former reality-TV star has tagged in Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative. This lawyer is a vocal critic of Chinese trade practices and a former deputy U.S. trade representative under the Reagan administration. Also on Trump’s roster is Peter Navarro, director of trade and industrial policy for the newly-created White House Trade Council. In case you don’t know who he is, Navarro is a professor, former Trump campaign adviser, and one of the most vocal critics of Chinese trade policy. The man has literally written volumes on how the U.S. can lead a trade war against China – with such titles as “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action,” and “The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought, How They Can Be Won.”
But on the outskirts, some will try to play peacemaker. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the two countries should work to sustain positive ties that work for both nations.
But it’s going to be hard for the incoming Trump administration to hold Beijing back. Trump has already caused outrage among the most elite Communist leaders after accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
China recognizes the self-governed island of Taiwan as a breakaway province that it’s ready to take back by force. Historically, the U.S. has never established official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and it has respected Beijing’s “One China Policy.” Never one to play by the rules, however, Trump technically broke away from decades of U.S. government customs when he picked up. Chinese officials are also weary of Tsai’s decision to visit U.S. Congressmen on American soil, possibly crossing ties with the Trump administration – this would be another first for Trump.
Still, Global Times is known to publish provocative editorials that even the other state-run media giants won’t touch. Regardless, Trump has full control of his Twitter account and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s set to take office on January 20. More than enough time for both sides to publish some more juicy commentary.