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How Trump and Abe will handle their relations with China | Updated: 2017-02-15 10:41

How Trump and Abe will handle their relations with China

US President Donald Trump (R) and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walk to board Marine One departing for Andrews Air Force Base en route to West Palm Beach, Florida, after their joint press conference at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Feb. 10, 2017. US President Donald Trump said on Friday that his country will seek to promote a "fair and reciprocal" trade relationship with Japan. Trump made the remarks at a press conference after talks with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House. [Photo/Xinhua]

On Feb. 9, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed for the United States to meet new President Donald Trump. Earlier, the Japanese had proposed a meeting on Jan. 27, but the American side rejected this - instead setting up a meeting with another ally, the British Prime Minister. Some Japanese media saw this as a Trump snub.

Since he took office, Trump has stepped on the gas. On Jan. 31, he "opened fire" on the exchange rate issue, saying that "You look at what Japan has done over the years; they play the money market, they play the devaluation market and we sit there like a bunch of dummies." Similarly, he also accuses China of being a currency manipulator. Faced with all of the aggressive remarks by the new president, how will China-US relations develop? And how will the ever-intensifying "China Threat" being voiced in Japan impact the relations of the two neighbors.

Picking up China-US and China-Japan relations, the Japanese magazine Shukan Kinyobi (Weekly Friday) had an exclusive interview with Wang Xiaohui, editor-in-chief of, via the conduit of People's China.

Q: Since his election campaign, Trump has always criticized China as a currency manipulator that has been taking away American jobs.

A: Indeed, the yuan recently fell against US dollar. Yet, in some ways, this may also be due to a stronger greenback. So, it is not objective to label China as a currency manipulator.

Industrial transfers from one country to another are far more to be decided by comparative advantage than the exchange rate.

If one accuses China of being a currency manipulator, then you cannot deny that the United States is manipulating the dollar, as well. In the context of globalization, industry will always shift their operations to places with lower costs. This is the law. We cannot say that China is taking away jobs from the United States.

Former Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke said that Trump accusing China of being a currency manipulator doesn't fit with reality and has warned about the dangers of a trade war.

Since the Second World War, the United States has always been the most powerful country, and has become accustomed to accusing others instead of finding answers in itself. Is it really the case that America's economic difficulties are being caused by others, without considering any problems of its own? If Trump is a mature politician, he should consider how to handle American relations with big countries such as China and how to work with China in improving global governance.

Trump claimed that he will bring American factories operating overseas back home. That, however, is decided by economic laws instead of an individual person. Moreover, many of the international conglomerates, seemingly owned by the United States, may actually be controlled by Japanese or German investors, who will weigh in the cost of moving the factory from one place to another rationally. Therefore, it is unrealistic to be talking of moving overseas factories back to the United States like that.

Q: Peter Navarro was assigned to head the National Trade Council newly set up by the Trump administration. He has expressed views before that many of the US economic problems are caused by China and has published a book entitled "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action." Robert Lighthizer was nominated by Trump as the US trade representative. As a veteran in trade law, he has previously launched anti-dumping cases against China. What do you think of Trump's nominations of such harsh China critics in economic and trade posts?

A: I noticed that there are quite a few hawkish figures among Trump's nominees who have previously stoked up the "China Threat." This means that the United States is still locked in a superpower mentality in which it alone is allowed to be the world's NO.1, so that it feels uncomfortable as other countries catch up in terms of economy and international influence.

From the remarks of those newly-appointed officials, I think the China-US relationship is bound to face relative huge pressure, a bigger part of which is from the White House. However, as a Chinese saying goes, "Thick mountains could not stop the river from flowing into the sea." Similarly, relations between world powers are not decided by a small handful of people, but should be managed after taking into account of national interests and the overall balance of power.

Q: After his victory on last December's presidential election, Trump had a telephone conversation with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen and he later posted a tweet, calling Tsai as "president of Taiwan," triggering wide public discussion and implying that he might be about to re-consider the longstanding"One-China" Policy.

A: I think that was not a simple telephone call, but something Trump has done on purpose.

As is known to all, the Taiwan issue is a red line for China-US relations. If not properly handled, it will damage bilateral relation and cause a very negative impact. As far as I'm concerned, Trump was doing that to test China's bottom line and add more bargaining chips during future negotiations with China on political and economic issues. I think this is a kind of negotiation skill possessed by Trump as a businessman. However, I think this is very unwise because it will cast a shadow over China-US relations.

Q: Trump has appointed ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. ExxonMobil has trade deals with China and also has a close relationship with Russia. Some say that Tillerson's appointment is aimed at roping in Russia and containing China.

A: Tillerson has very close relations with Russia and China. Exchanges between world powers, however, are decided by international interests and strategic balance. Individuals can play some role, but by no means a decisive one. In recent years, the strategic cooperation relationship between China and Russia is running smoothly and becoming ever closer. There are very deep problems between the United States and Russia. Cooperation and problems always exist in relations between big powers, and China and the United States are no exceptions.

Q: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to strengthen economic cooperation with Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines as well as countries like India, Australia, Russia and the United States through introducing its nuclear power and Shinkansen (Bullet Train) technologies. What Abe targets is considered to be the "encirclement of China." What is your opinion on this?

A: He has proposed the idea of a "Security Diamond" against China in an article after he took office. Now, he frequently visits ASEAN countries and discusses cooperative initiatives like building high-speed trains with his counterparts. That is clearly an attempt to take on China in this front. There is a proposition that Japan wants to get involved in any international programs that involves China. If it is in economic terms, we have nothing to say. But if Japan were to build an encirclement of China through cooperation with ASEAN countries, I think it is nothing but wishful thinking.

Under the current international political and economic situation, Japan cannot possibly contain big countries like China. Even though the encirclement is created, it could not possibly work because it is like standing in the way of an elephant using a piece of string. And we doubt how strong this encirclement can be. Even though China and the Philippines are locked in a territorial dispute over the South China Sea, it cannot hinder their cooperation. China and ASEAN cooperation is also very close. Therefore, the so-called encirclement will not make it and will not make any difference even if it were to be built.

Q: In Japan, the proposition of "China Threat" has long been playing a dominant role among officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, giving a "justifiable reason" for various arrangements like building new military bases in Okinawa and deploying Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in Miyakojima and Yaeyama. What's your view on this?

A: Chinese people cannot emotionally accept this Japan-envisioned "China Threat." During the Second World War, Japan wreaked much havoc in China and Asia at large. So, Japan should reflect on its past militarism, find ways to reposition itself, and keep on good terms with other countries.

There are also some young officials in the foreign affairs ministry whose political style is much different from the older generation.

It is perfectly normal to have those kinds of officials, given that the country's Prime Minister is Shinzo Abe. In my opinion, Japanese hype about the "China Threat" is actually trying to find excuses for constitutional revision, military legalization as well as expansion overseas. It is understandable that once a country grows stronger, it will aim to enhance its international influence. However, this should be achieved through normal channels not by building encirclement and expanding military power. Historically, it has been proven time and time again that this practice is doomed to fail, and it will cause damage to others without benefiting itself.

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