Foreign policy experts say that President Donald Trump is right to play hardball in the ongoing trade negotiations with China, despite critics’ assertions that his actions are doing more harm than good.
After China and the U.S. levied a new round of tariffs against each other last week and temporarily plunged stock markets, the president’s critics went into overdrive, asserting that a recession was on the way and that the president did not know what he was doing.
Critics pointed to Trump’s remarks after a journalist asked Trump if he was having second thoughts about a trade war with China as evidence. “Yeah, sure, why not. Might as well. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything,” he said. (The White House later said he meant he was thinking he should have been tougher).
“The lack of predictability is the lack of the president’s irrational, emotional state right now. I’ve been saying for the last two weeks that he’s melting down at the core,” former Trump adviser cum critic Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN’s New Day on Monday.
However, several prominent foreign policy experts say Trump knows exactly what he is doing with China and that he is doing the right thing.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding, former National Security Council senior director of strategic planning, said in an interview with Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Daily that Trump is actually following the administration’s National Security Strategy, which seeks to confront the economic and security challenge posed by China.
“It seems like it’s an escalation in the trade war; it’s actually a fulfillment of the National Security Strategy, which is essentially seeking to protect America from Chinese Communist Party predatory economics,” said Spalding, who is currently a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the forthcoming book Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept.
He said more steps are in the works to confront Beijing, whose stated goal is to replace the U.S. as the world’s leader by 2050:
And so, not just in trade, but you know, soon you’ll begin to see and you’ve already started to see efforts in finance. You’ve already seen efforts in investment with [Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.] reform; [Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act]; areas in immigration where you’re having much more scrutiny over applications for visas, particularly in areas of research, or science and technology.
In areas like the internet, … securing America’s internet and protecting their data; media, I think you need to see more scrutiny on that, and you’re starting to see some with requiring Chinese media companies to register under [Foreign Agents Registration Act]; and also in politics … you’re starting to see much more diligence in registering as a foreign agent …
The next effort is going to be in investing. And the president really fired the first shots when he said, “Hey I ordered companies to come back to the United States.” So, infrastructure, industrial base, STEM education, research and development — all of this, by the way, is in the National Security Strategy — it should be no surprise.
And despite critics’ claims that the U.S. is on the losing end of a trade war with China, Asia expert Gordon Chang said Chinese President Xi Jinping “is in a world of hurt.”
“You have Hong Kong that is just unraveling. China’s lost control. The Chinese economy right now is in much worse shape than it has been in a very, very long time,” he said Monday on Fox Business Network. “There are signs of political discord … but things are happening in Beijing that normally wouldn’t happen in a period of stability.”
“When you put all of that together, there’s a sense, I think, that the Chinese really do believe they have got to calm the situation with the United States,” he said.
Chang said China cannot just wait out Trump until 2020.
“I don’t think they can wait it out to 2020, and the reason is they’d have a lot of businesses leaving. Because businesses, they can price in tariffs, but they can’t price in uncertainty. And leaving it until the end of next year means that a lot of businesses, a lot of factories would be leaving. So I don’t think that they can do that right now,” he said.
“Right now, [Beijing is] facing challenges that it has not seen in three to four decades. So right now, I think that they are at risk and Xi Jinping understands that,” he said.
Henry Olsen, Washington Post columnist and author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism, said he did not think negotiations with China were going well — but that that was a good thing.
“I think that the Chinese now are seeing that they can’t simply fob the president off with some purchases of soybeans and a temporary reduction in the trade deficit, and so consequently, I don’t think the trade negotiations are going well. I think that’s a good thing because I think it’s time for the American economy to disengage from China,” he said in an interview with Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Daily.
“We need to stop funding and building our geopolitical adversaries with our minds, money, and market, and so consequently, not having a quick deal and end to the trade negotiations is in the American interest, even if it’s not in the interest of every American business,” he added.
Rebeccah Heinrichs, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, tweeted on Tuesday: “The Trump admin is exactly right on China. And dealing w/ China will take years, serious intentionality, and the cooperation of Congress.”
She added: “This cannot be a partisan issue and it is amazing two wildly popular D POTUS candidates- Sanders and Biden- have defended China.”
The Trump admin is exactly right on China. And dealing w/ China will take years, serious intentionality, and the cooperation of Congress. This cannot be a partisan issue and it is amazing two wildly popular D POTUS candidates- Sanders and Biden- have defended China.
— Rebeccah Heinrichs (@RLHeinrichs) August 28, 2019
Spalding said that contrary to critics’ assertions that the U.S. is isolated and alone, it has been working hard behind the scenes to get allies on board with pressuring China. For example, he said a campaign against Huawei has been successful behind the scenes in getting allies not to go with the Chinese tech giant to develop their 5G networks.
“Countries are signing up not to have Huawei … they’re not going to be vocal about it, but what they’re going to say is, the technology has to be registered or certified and we’re just not going to certify it,” he said.
“What happens is the media doesn’t dig down deep enough to know that the bureaucrats that work in the State Department and the National Security Council are quietly actually doing the connective tissue to make this work,” he said.
Another example is a new U.S. deal with Japan on agricultural goods, said Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government.
After the tit-for-tat tariffs between the U.S. and China, Trump announced Sunday that Japan would replace China’s broken corn purchase promise with $7 billion of agricultural product purchases as well as allow the U.S. increased access to Japan’s markets for other agricultural goods.
“The multiple billion dollar deal with one of the United States’ closest G-7 allies — Japan has the third largest economy in the world — signals that Trump’s strategy of isolating China to ratchet up the pressure is fully engaged,” Manning wrote in a Breitbart News op-ed on Monday.
Spalding said, contrary to critics’ assertions, Trump did not start an economic war with China.
“This war has been going on for decades. We just have finally joined the fight,” he said. “What they’ve been able to do is convince people they’re somehow economic wizards when in reality, they’ve been parasitic and stealing from the West.”