Trump’s Flailing Makes Xi Jinping Stronger at Home

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

I've speculated that Trump's recent actions -- from linking his trade war to sanctions on Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei and Chinese President Xi Jinping's handling of protests in Hong Kong -- have made it easier for Jinping to oppose him and pushed an elusive trade deal even further out of reach, but what do I know?

You could just as well assume that I know nothing and take it from the Chinese.

Sources within the Chinese government tell Reuters that sentiment among the public and within China's ruling party has turned sharply against dealing with Trump and toward Jinping.

This time last year, as Xi and other top officials held secretive talks at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, there was an unusual surge of criticism in official circles about economic policy and how the government had handled the trade war with the United States, sources told Reuters at the time.

With that same annual beach gathering likely wrapping up this week in China in the midst of the two deepening crises, there are no obvious dissenting voices.

In the early months there were some criticisms on the government for not opening up so quickly,” said one Chinese government advisor, speaking on condition of anonymity, referring to the rare internal dissent during the opening salvoes of the trade war last year.

But right now in China, the rising consensus is that the U.S. is trying to contain China no matter what we do.” [...]

Many people will feel it is worthless to negotiate with Trump,” the advisor said.

It is worthless to negotiate with Trump. Trump doesn't negotiate and he doesn't make deals. He didn't even write The Art of the Deal.

To call something a "deal" implies that both sides got something out of it, but Trump does not believe that anyone but himself deserves to get anything.

Trump's decision to arbitrarily move ahead with tariffs on all remaining Chinese goods after declaring a "truce" with Xi Jinping, followed by his decision to delay about half of those tariffs until December, was both a sign of weakness and incoherence.

Trump and his lackeys have publicly speculated that China is going to wait them out and make a deal with the next president but, as I said before, if that's true, it would only be true because dealing with Trump is virtually impossible.

It's incredibly difficult if not impossible to work with people who cannot even agree to the meaning of words.

One American executive in China said he thought the manner in which Trump has handled the 10% tariffs would backfire and give Xi a boost.

“It plays right into Xi’s hand as he goes into Beidaihe. He can look around the room and say, ‘see, you can’t negotiate with these people’. Xi called Trump’s bluff,” the executive said.

Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said while Xi was facing a challenging external environment, particularly over the protests in Hong Kong, he was not significantly weakened at home.

“Xi Jinping is lucky insofar as he has a mercurial United States president who is making the case for him that the reason U.S.-China relations have turned in such a dire direction is because there is an unpredictable U.S. leader,” Blanchette said.