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Foreign Policy

The U.S.-China Summit and the Trump Card

Oct 09 , 2015

The Chinese must view Donald Trump like a house of cards in portraying the ugly side of America’s political culture. Mesmerizing, yes, but not realistic.

The New York real estate mega-mogul vowed that as president he would not host a state dinner when President Xi visits Washington but instead get him a McDonald’s hamburger and say, “We’ve got to get down to work because you can’t continue to devalue and suck up all the jobs, suck all the money right out of our country.”

Such comments are not presidential, and Trump won’t be elected, but he is boastfully driving the debate, especially among Republican presidential candidates who are prepared to attack leaders of both countries during the summit meeting.

Candidate Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor, quickly followed by urging President Obama to rescind his invitation to Xi.

US presidential contenders have long lambasted China, vowing to take a tougher stance than the White House incumbent if elected president.

It will only get worse, with 20 presidential competitors eager to look tough, grab media attention and otherwise play catch up with Trump. The scene will look like a shooting gallery as Republican contenders take pot shots at China, Mexico, Obamacare, immigration and Planned Parenthood, but Xi’s visit will make China the prime target.

After the summit, the two leaders will go their different ways. Xi returns to Beijing as China’s uncontested leader while continuing to assert greater influence worldwide. Obama assumes the role of lame duck president, and his successor must cope with a divided country and fractured political system.

But the issues remain.

Foremost is the so-called currency manipulation that has drawn loud howls on Capitol Hill, led by US Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who is expected to replace Senator Harry Reid of Nevada as leader of the Democrats. The issue will prompt saber-rattling among some presidential candidates, led by Trump’s prophesizing that China’s devaluation of the yuan would be “devastating” for the US. “They’re just destroying us,” he told CNN.

Yet the Schumer and Trump show little patience for the facts, as both the International Monetary Fund and the US Federal Reserve Board recognize that the measure will move China toward a more market-oriented exchange rate, and the yuan was no longer undervalued.

There are two other issues around the corner. One is the US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). While the executive branch negotiates such agreements, it is Congress that has the final say, thanks to an Article of the Constitution that states: “Congress shall regulate interstate and foreign commerce.”

It will likely prompt a fierce debate on Capitol Hill and among presidential contenders that is rooted in suspicion and fear that China’s state-owned enterprises and its emerging global private companies will unfairly gain economic advantage, and the agreement is just another door-opener for US companies poised to invest and re-locate more manufacturing and jobs in China.

The other issue may prove even more volatile in that it deals with cyber-related problems. Xi’s special envoy Meng Jianzhu and Secretary of State John Kerry just reached a consensus on combating cybercrimes, but again, in the political arena there is plenty of mischief when it comes to cyberattacks, commercial cyber-espionage, hacking and the list goes on.

While China will be a convenient target during Xi’s visit and throughout the presidential election, it is not all bleak. Indeed, beyond the Beltway, all across America, there are state governors and mayors rushing to take trade delegations to China, seeking signficant investments and export opportunities that are strengthening the economic relationship.

One example is Michigan. In contrast to that state’s congressmen being among China’s harshest critics, Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, just completed his fifth trade mission to China, signing deals to add to Michigan’s $3.4 billion in exports and bring more investments to his state, including a Chinese company that will locate its operations and create 125 manufacturing jobs very much needed in the Detroit area.

Ultimately the good news is China’s renowned patience and that it always takes the long view. They recognize, as do many US leaders, that the world’s two largest economies have no choice but to cooperate to ensure stability and economic growth that will prove mutually beneficial. Hopefully, this will be the reality at the US-China summit.

The author is a retired US congressman, and the executive director of Apcoworldwide.

Copyright: China Daily

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