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Foreign Policy

A U.S.-Russia Alliance to Curb China? That Won’t Work

Jan 19 , 2017
  • Ma Shikun

    Senior Journalist, the People’s Daily

An article about U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has spread among the Chinese netizens in recent days.

The article, with a sensational title claiming that Trump could possibly face impeachment proceedings, was first posted on the Internet with a Canadian Internet protocol address. It claimed that US intelligence agencies have unanimously agreed that Russian hacking groups, backed and organized by the Russian government, broke into the computer system of the Democratic Party, hacked into the mail box of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and then leaked relevant information to the Internet and even covertly transferred such information to the Trump team. The article claimed that once the under-the-table deal between Trump and Russian leader is proven, it would be almost certain that Trump would be impeached. Such a scenario, however, wouldn't happen, because hacker attacks are extremely difficult to prove and verify. For Russia, it would certainly refuse to acknowledge whatever evidence the US might come up with, and for Trump, he would also deny them. Without any solid evidence, how could it be possible to start impeachment proceedings?

Chinese netizens’ attitude toward Trump has changed. When he was debating with Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, many wished he could win. That did not mean he was liked by Chinese netizens, but that many Chinese did not like Clinton and did not want to see her to become the president. Furthermore, the netizens believed that Trump is an unsophisticated and big-mouthed guy, straightforward in airing his views no matter whether right or wrong, so they wanted to see him win the White House and see how the drama would unfold.

Nevertheless, what Trump has done angered Chinese netizens. First, he had a telephone conversation with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, during which he addressed her as “president”, which meant he considered Taiwan to be a country and threw his weight behind the Taiwan independence forces. Of course, he could pretend this was unintended, but his words and actions have done much harm to the feelings of the Chinese people. He has broken the bottom line of “one-China” policy, which is held dearly in the hearts of the 1.4 billion Chinese.

Then, Trump has tried to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his intention of “cooperating with Russia to contain China” was too obvious to be ignored by the media. The media agreed that Trump was applying a “reverse Nixon strategy”, in which he changed the strategy from “cooperating with China to curb the Soviet Union” into the one of “cooperating with Russia to contain China”.

In the eyes of Chinese netizens, this was simply an awkward copycat. It could be possible that US-Russia relations would improve, as long as Trump and Putin are willing to do that. But the idea of “allying with Russia to contain China” is a daydream. The China-Russia relationship today is completely different from the China-Soviet Union relations of the 1970s. At that time, China and Soviet Union were hostile toward each other, with the Soviet Union deploying about 1 million soldiers along the borders; the two even had a war for the control of Zhenbao Island. Today, China and Russia have established a comprehensive strategic partnership, and the two countries share a high degree of political trust, close economic exchanges and a very high degree of agreement or consensus on important international issues. The US and Russia, however, have strategic conflicts and could hardly develop any form of close relationship, and the idea of “cooperating with Russia to contain China” is just Trump’s wishful thinking.

Development of ties among Beijing, Washington and Moscow over the past 30 years points to an interesting trajectory of history: Whenever a new president is sworn in and moves into the White House, US-Russian relations would turn for the better for a while, but soon looming political clouds and storms prevail in their relations. This was proven once again by the relations between Putin and Barack Obama. The China-US relationship, however, has been different. From the presidential campaign to the early days of office of a new president, he would talk tough about China and even consider China as a threat, but shortly after taking office, the president would soon back down from his previous rhetoric, mend his ways and want to establish good relations with China, and that was the case for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

On January 20, Trump will become the new president. For a good start of the China-US relations under his administration, he ought to abandon the idea of “cooperating with Russia to contain China”. If he continues to regard China as a threat or rival to be contained, it would not only cause harm to China-US relations, but also cause troubles to the world. This is not what the American people want, and it would only land Trump himself in an embarrassing situation.

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