Author: Zhang Xin
Posted on: Global Times, April 28th, 2017

The first 100 days of Donald Trump‘s presidency has stabilized China-US ties on dealing with international issues, although the US administration’s China strategy is still evolving, Chinese analysts said.

On several bilateral issues, Trump has backed down from his initial, hawkish remarks on China before and after he assumed office, and shifted to a more cooperative attitude with China, as seen from his latest policies.

Trump realizes that good Sino-US relations are important to the US, who wants to maintain the international order with the least resistance, Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said.

«China’s rise has created a lot of resources. And Trump needs China’s help to mobilize these resources to resolve international issues,» Jia told the Global Times.

Recent efforts by China and the US on the North Korean nuclear issue is widely considered an example of effective cooperation between the world’s two major powers on regional security issues. With China considering tougher sanctions while at the same time urging restraint, and the US vowing to achieve peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with the help of China, North Korea did not conduct its sixth nuclear test on Tuesday, as was widely expected.

«The recent cooperation between China and the US finally puts an end to the dreary situation after Six-Party Talks were suspended. Since the talks were suspended, North Korea has stepped up its nuclear and missile tests, as there was no effective constraint from the international community,» Liu Yawei, director of the China Program at the Carter Center in the US, told the Global Times.

The US hopes to work with China in dealing with bilateral and international affairs, Liu said. «China can even play a leading role when it comes to economic development and international security issues, since the US is stepping back on its foreign involvement.»

Taking the initiative

Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort on April 6-7 was a key moment for the two countries.

Analysts said the first meeting between the two leaders would further pave the way for China-US cooperation in many fields, as Trump praised the «great chemistry» between the two.

The fact that Trump has yet to form his sub-Cabinet level foreign policy team, with the post of US ambassador to China still vacant, «has some benefits, as the two leaders can have more direct communication,» Liu said.

Less than three weeks since their Mar-a-Lago meeting, Xi and Trump have spoken to each other twice on the phone to discuss bilateral ties and regional issues.

Former US President Barak Obama had four face-to-face meetings with Xi during his presidency, but Liu said they failed to develop a close personal relationship.

«The summit was successful in terms of establishing good personal and official relations, creating a dialogue mechanism, reaching consensus on important issues like the North Korean nuclear issue, and setting up a system to control conflicts in trade and investments,» Jia said.

Trump’s current attitude toward China is a shift from his tough rhetoric during the US election campaign and as president-elect. Trump had frequently accused China of devaluing its currency, and threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese products. Before taking office, he even made a protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and said «everything is under negotiation, including one China.»

While bilateral ties faced huge challenges, China’s pragmatic, flexible and steady diplomacy is believed to have played a key role in stabilizing them.

«China criticized Tsai Ing-wen for playing a little trick, and stressed that China considers Sino-US ties a national interest,» Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan-affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. He added that whatever rhetoric he used before taking office, as president Trump would have to go back to the international political framework, like the Three Joint Communiqués between China and the US.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, met Trump before he took office, and promised to create 1 million jobs over five years in the US.

First daughter Ivanka Trump was invited to the Chinese Embassy in Washington to celebrate Chinese New Year with her 5-year-old daughter, Arabella.

These are all very pragmatic diplomatic practices, experts said.

«Since the Trump administration’s China policy continues to evolve, China should play a bigger role in shaping Sino-US ties,» said Jia.

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