Trump to ‘Rejoice in Grandiosity’ in Beijing, but will a Hawkish Turn Follow?


Donald Trump is set to arrive in Beijing on November 8 after he stops in Japan and South Korea. Widespread expectations are for an all-smiles, low-substance visit.

  • China is making efforts to not “view [Trump] as an ‘other’ or a joke,” one Chinese international relations professor told Reuters, but at the same time, another Chinese scholar said that “we must seize upon his special characteristics, such as liking instant gratification,” and let him “rejoice in grandiosity,” as ego-stroking is now “important to keeping relations stable.”
  • The New York Times cites (paywall) several Chinese analysts who believe that Trump, given his adoration of who he calls China’s “king,” will be much more likely than former president Obama to agree to Xi Jinping’s idea of a “new type of great power relations.” This would be a significant strategic shift, because this idea has traditionally been seen by the U.S. as “code for allowing China to establish a sphere of influence in Asia, with the United States withdrawing to minimize conflict.”
  • Both U.S. and Chinese officials expect this American president to be unusually submissive to his Chinese counterpart while he is visiting Beijing — to the point that human rights is not even expected to be on the agenda, CNBC reports.
  • However, the Washington Post reports, “The Trump administration is slowly but surely coming around to a more hawkish, traditional Republican stance on China.”
  • The Post explains that “Trump is filling his Asia policy team with China hawks inside the national security agencies and around the region,” and they are conducting an “Indo-Pacific strategy review” that will result in the administration “being much more explicit about the challenge that China poses.”
  • Part of that push to refocus on the “Indo-Pacific” — a term targeted to sound less Chinese than “Asia-Pacific” — begins with an unusual four-party meeting between India, the U.S., Japan, and Australia to happen on the sidelines of the APEC meeting on November 13–14. China’s foreign ministry has already raised concerns about this plan, warning that it should not “target or damage” a “third party’s interest,” India Today reports.

China will almost certainly offer some tweetable business deals to Trump while he is there. Here are a few potentials:

  • Reported last week by Reuters: China may offer a lucrative oil deal to Trump from its state-owned giant Sinopec, which “could reduce China’s trade deficit with the United States…while allowing Beijing to tap growing U.S. crude supplies as the top global oil importer seeks to diversify its import sources.”
  • A $5 billion fund for investing in U.S. manufacturing and other sectors is being negotiated between China Investment Corp., China’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street giant that China sees as having favor within the administration, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall).
  • The Journal says that “other contracts” and “letters of intent,” and “agreements [that] involve aviation, liquefied natural gas and soybeans” are also expected to be announced by Trump in Beijing.

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company’s newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Articles by: Lucas Niewenhuis

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