Scott Kennedy: Five problems Trump should address before meeting with Xi

Making an explicit China policy needs to be a top priority for Donald Trump if he wants to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, said a US expert, as media reports have said that the US president is planning to host Xi at a two-day summit in April.

Scott Kennedy, director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an article that Trump should address five problems ahead of the summit, as his elusive policy toward China has been increasing uncertainties over the bilateral relations

The first problem Trump should deal with is how to strike a balance between promoting the US-China relationship and enhancing the US' prosperity and security.

It is unclear whether Trump would do what his predecessors did to recognize China as a power that contributes to the operation of the global system and the realization of the US interests. However, Kennedy stressed that the recognition of China as such a power cannot be simply interpreted as equal to accepting China's proposal of building a new type of great power relationship. Kennedy called China's proposal as an unrealistic wish because it recognizes China as equal to the US in ability and global status. The expert said that the new type of great power relationship is a constructive relationship, which gives China more freedom in Asia and means more cooperation in tackling important international problems.

The second problem for Trump to tackle is what he really wants from China.

Trump has long criticized China for manipulating the yuan's exchange rate, but whether he would accept more imports from China, which might be caused by a free-floating yuan, remains uncertain, said Kennedy.

Although Trump has explicitly said that he wanted China to put more pressure on North Korea, reduce militarization in the South China Sea and allow US ships to navigate freely in the waters, he needs to know whether these demands would be in contradiction with the Chinese security interests, according to Kennedy. The expert also said that Trump needs to make it clear what he wants from China in combating global terrorism.

The third problem is about what compromises Trump would make in exchange for China's cooperation.

Kennedy suggested that the Trump administration should positively respond to China's concerns in areas of bilateral investment, exports of high technology and recognition of the market economy status, despite the fact that the US government is still reluctant to adjust its policies, and expects China to make unilateral concessions.

The fourth problem that Trump faces is what he would do if China shrugs off US concerns.

With the big changes in China's economic and security policies, the Trump administration needs to show its determination if it chooses to play hardball with China, said Kennedy.

The last problem is how the Trump administration would design its China policy.

Kennedy deemed that the Trump administration needs to balance the government-level and leader-level dialogues. Dialogues at government level such as the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade indeed reduced the disagreements between the two countries, but they included too many things that could have been solved through conventional channels. If the White House wants to reduce the breadth of the government-level dialogues, it will have to spend more time and energy on daily management of the bilateral ties such as increasing the frequency of the Trump-Xi meeting. Meanwhile, the Trump administration should streamline the policymaking process, said Kennedy.

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