President Donald Trump’s early morning tweets on the day after the Fourth of July seemed to signal a major shift in his attitude toward China.
“The United States made some of the worst trade deals in world history. Why should we continue these deals with countries that do not help us,” he tweeted early Wednesday.
Then came another: “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 % in the first quarter. So much for China working with us — but we had to give it a try.”
Trump had promised during the campaign that he would label China a currency manipulator, and he threatened a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods to correct the nation’s enormous trade imbalance with China.
But the president decided to stall aggressive economic action against Beijing. After meeting with Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April, Trump explained his reasoning: China had promised to help with North Korea.
“The longer American troops stay in South Korea and Japan, the likelier they are to be dragged into a war, because the situation is so unstable.”
“There was never any prospect that the Chinese would help,” says Alan Tonelson, an expert on China trade and author of the RealityCheck blog, adding that if China had been any help on the North Korea situation, it would have been because the Chinese realized it was in their own interest.
The trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016, with the U.S. exporting $116 billion in goods to China and China exporting $453 billion to the U.S.
Tonelson says he was “astonished” by Trump’s talk on trade during the campaign, and says what impressed him most was the level of detail of Trump’s positions on trade and also the fact that he talked about bad trade deals, including with China, in nearly every speech in every state — not just in the Rust Belt states, where it would matter most for votes.
But since he was inaugurated, it’s been a different story, with Trump welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to Mar-a-Lago, where the two leaders dined and Trump’s granddaughter, Arabella, serenaded Xi with a song in Mandarin.
Trump, says Tonelson, was surrounded by foreign-policy establishment people who were in favor of maintaining the status quo.
“Most of the establishment voices, they don’t take America’s trade policy seriously,” he told LifeZette. “They’ve never valued America’s economic interests seriously at all.”
“As long as it is still run by the Communist Party, we should not expect China to behave normally. We should not expect China will keep its word.”
Dr. Charles Lee, a former prisoner of the Chinese Communist regime who now lives in New Jersey, says despite Xi’s assurances to Trump in April, there’s no real possibility China was going to help with North Korea.
“There’s no normal trading relationship with them, because they always lie,” he told LifeZette, saying that the president needs to pay attention to the fact that China is a communist country.
“They naturally take U.S.A. as the No. 1 enemy,” he said.
China, he said, would never turn on North Korea since they have a communist ally in Pyongyang.
“As long as it is still run by the Communist Party, we should not expect China to behave normally. We should not expect China will keep its word,” said Lee. “They promise this, they promise that, but they never keep their word … they’re going to stab you in the back whenever they get the chance.”
North Korea fired off an intercontinental ballistic missile July 3 — showing for the first time that it now has a weapon that could potentially reach the continental United States.
This, says Tonelson, has changed everything in how the U.S. deals with North Korea, and all of East Asia.
“Now we have the prospect of North Korea retaliating … by taking out an entire American city … If we thought what happened on 9/11 was horrific, it was a pinprick in comparison.”
The only answer, he says, is a total pullout of U.S. troops from Japan and South Korea — not to de-escalate the situation with North Korea, but simply as a calculation that the risks for U.S. troops are too high.
“The longer American troops stay in South Korea and Japan, the likelier they are to be dragged into a war, because the situation is so unstable,” he said.
The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea and 50,000 in Japan.
Those troops, says Tonelson, must be gotten out of harm’s way.
“The longer we wait, the likelier that something bad happens.”
Trump is to meet with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in short private meetings on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, which will take place July 7 and 8 in Hamburg, Germany.