While Probably Too Late To Avoid War, Trump’s Letter To China Stops The Slide – At Least For The Moment

Trump’s ignorant and provocative attitude towards China has put him in a weak position vis-a-vis Xi Jinping. As we’ve noted, the situation in East Asia was volatile enough before Trump began his rampage. After returning from his trip to S Korea / Japan, Defense Sec’y Mattis undoubtedly told Trump the region was ready to explode, and he better start re-thinking his approach unless he wants a war that will undoubtedly involve the US in some not-very-pleasant way

or Rex Tillerson, whose confirmation hearings revealed how little he understands about China and the entire East Asia region.

And, as the story below also reveals clearly, even the most minimal positive move from Trump will be hailed by the worried Chinese elite that “things are back on track”,

as the sigificant pro-Western element of the Party likes to characterize the relationship.

This is good for them as well, since, otherwise, defending the West in general, and Trump in particular, could be a one-way ticket to career suicide —

not to mention imperiling the health and well-being of the ones you love.

It’s the first good news — Arabella’s song notwithstanding — in the US – China relationship in a long time

Again, we think the regional situation on the ground is — and has been — tense,

even before Trump was inaugurated in the sight of pitifully small crowds

But until now, NOTHING Trump or his cronies have done re China has been worthy of anything but wingeing condemnation.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a shift away from war, and towards the open and friendly relationship

between not only the two nations involved that is crucial not only for them, but also for the rest of the world.

But arguably no bilateral relationship is more important than the one between Beijing and Washington, and

the fact Trump and Xi have not talked since Trump took office in January has drawn increasing scrutiny.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, expressed thanks for Trump’s letter.

He declined to comment on whether a phone call between the two leaders was in the works,

dismissing as “senseless” speculation that Trump was snubbing Xi by not scheduling one.

“The two countries share wide common interests, and cooperation is the only correct path for both,” Lu told reporters on Thursday in Beijing.

Even without a phone call, Trump and his advisers have markedly shifted their tone toward China since the inauguration.

During the campaign, Trump advocated a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States, complaining that China manipulated the value of its currency.

After his election, he broke decades of precedent by talking to Taiwan’s leader, going so far as to say that

the One China policy — a linchpin of US-China ties that recognizes a single China with Taiwan included — was negotiable.

Last month, in his confirmation hearings, Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, suggested the US would bar China from its artificial islands in the South China Sea.

But after the inauguration, the tone has changed, with dialogue and diplomacy replacing diatribes.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, attended a Lunar New Year celebration this month at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Trump’s granddaughter Arabella sang a New Year’s greeting in Mandarin that was widely viewed in China.

Her father, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, met with China’s ambassador, Cui Tiankai, before the embassy event,

part of an extensive dialogue between the two men, Bloomberg News reported.

For his part, Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, said the US would focus on diplomacy to help resolve disputes in the South China Sea.

Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, talked by phone last week with China’s top foreign affairs official, Yang Jiechi.

“I think the letter indicates that Sino-U.S. relations should be O.K.,”

Zhang Baohui, a professor of political science at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, wrote in an email.

“Kushner is said to be in charge of Trump’s Israel, Mexico and China policies.

His wife’s visit to the Chinese Embassy and his own meeting with Cui Tiankai are signs that Trump does not want to rock the relationship.”

The extensive business relationships between some of Trump’s advisers and leading Chinese companies with close links to the Communist Party may also be strengthening ties.

Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, took part in talks last year with the Chinese billionaire Wu Xiaohui

to help redevelop the Kushner family’s crown jewel, a commercial building on Fifth Avenue, The New York Times has reported.

And sitting to the right of Trump at a White House meeting this month was Wu’s principal business partner in the United States, Stephen A. Schwarzman,

who set up a scholarship program at Xi’s alma mater in Beijing.

Schwarzman, who is chairman of the president’s business council, is chief executive of the Blackstone Group,

which has sold more than $12 billion in assets in recent months to Anbang and another politically connected company in China, HNA Group.

“I think it’s an expression of good will,”

Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said by telephone of Trump’s letter.

“It’s necessary to handle this relationship with practical cooperation.””

Source: In Letter to China, Trump Says He Wants ‘Constructive Relationship’ – The New York Times