Add Chinese Leaders to the Long List of Those Who Got Trump Wrong

Hudson Institute's Michael Pillsbury tells Laura Ingraham that China thought our president would not keep promises

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 07 Feb 2018 at 2:21 PM

Chinese “countermeasures” in response to tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump are the surest sign yet that the Asian giant’s leadership miscalculated on Barack Obama’s successor, an expert said Wednesday.

Michael Pillsbury, director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the Chinese government doubted that Trump was serious about his campaign rhetoric regarding America’s trade posture. He said Chinese leaders believed Trump would be influenced by Establishment voices like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

“Their comment last year about President Trump was quite optimistic … So they were relatively relaxed that Trump was not going to implement his campaign threats,” he said. “In the last month or so, that seems to have changed.”

Pillsbury, author of “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower,” said the change can be seen in China’s disproportionate response to last month’s decision to slap tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels because of trade violations.

“One thing they’re doing is countermeasures to each step that President Trump has taken,” he said.

Those countermeasures include threats of “nontrade” barriers to imports from the United States. Products include the billion-dollar-a-year sale of sorghum, an agricultural product used to make a strong liquor, and soybeans. Pillsbury said the Chinese have raised concerns about the quality of the sorghum and questions about whether the soybeans are infected with disease.

“So, this is a much larger, retaliation you might say, if they do it, in terms of dollar value than what we’ve done.”

“So, this is a much larger, retaliation you might say, if they do it, in terms of dollar value than what we’ve done,” he said.

Pillsbury compared the trade moves to Chinese reaction to a recent Pentagon assessment that rates China as a bigger threat to U.S. national security than global terrorism.

“This is all a topic of major Chinese news stories, almost every day, which is quite of concern to me because their comment last year about President Trump was quite optimistic,” he said.

Beijing has objected to the “innocent passage” of U.S. warships through international waters in the Pacific Ocean that China has claimed. Pillsbury said the response has been alarming given that the naval vessels have taken no provocative actions during their transit.

Related: Cries of Price Hikes Following Tariffs Are ‘Nonsense,’ Expert Says

“Even that has produced a whole series of countermeasures, I think out of proportion from the Chinese side,” he said.

Pillsbury endorsed President Donald Trump’s idea of having a military parade through Washington.

“It tends to send the opposite message that America — from what the Chinese have been saying — that America’s in decline, relatively steep decline, actually,” he said. “And we’re not only a paper tiger; they often portray us now as a toothless tiger … It’s particularly insulting for our country as a whole — which is so high in most indicators, military and economic — to us see portrayed by the Chinese as a toothless, old tiger that’s lost its way.”

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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