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V12: What's Next?

December , 2016


Uncertainty, Continuity and Resilience

Trump won. Clinton conceded. Washington is moving on to usher in the Trump era with much bewilderment and unease. A strong sense of uncertainty on the U.S.’s China policy is also palpable in the foreign-policy communities in both countries. The campaign rhetoric trashing China and calls to go tougher on China were expected yet disturbing. With a Trump win, it appears unclear what turn the ties between the two powers may take.

Trump has been called unpredictable, among many other things. While there are plenty of reasons to worry that some specific areas in bilateral ties, such as trade, might fall victim to a Trump presidency, it is unlikely the overall relationship will go south. Over the last three decades or so, the relationship has been resilient, defying key leadership changes and major domestic and international events in either country.

After Trump won, China’s Xi Jinping moved swiftly to set the tone in dealing with the incoming Trump administration. During a congratulatory call to Trump, Xi pledged solid personal attention and urged continuity in China-U.S. ties. In return, Trump stated that the two nations will have “one of the strongest relationships” moving forward.

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  • Two uneasily coexisting and somewhat contradictory impulses are discernible in the embryonic Trump Administration—an impulse to focus attention outside Asia and one to be more muscular in Asia.
    I would ask: “Do we have the luxury of not choosing among threats, of not having priorities?” And if we must choose, is China reasonably placed on the list of threats with the others?

    David Lampton

  • The odd fruit of an unprecedented, ferocious political battle resulted from the reality that social and political polarization in America since 2008 has gone to the very extreme.

    Cui Liru

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