Trump heads to Asia with an unclear strategy on China – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for October 31, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing for the most consequential foreign trip of his presidency, a 12-day tour of Asia to begin on November 3 and span five countries, with a stop in Beijing planned for November 8-10.

  • At the top of Trump’s agenda for China — the same as it’s been for his entire presidency so far — is dealing with the North Korean crisis, and Beijing knows this, which is perhaps why China and South Korea just agreed to a rapprochement on tensions over a missile defense system near Seoul.
  • The hope for many Asia watchers was a grand bargain around the denuclearization of North Korea,” writes Elizabeth Economy at the Council on Foreign Relations, adding that “it now appears there will be no grand bargain—not on North Korea, not on trade, and not on the South China Sea.” Economy believes that is “okay,” as “a grand bargain should take time and thought, and the administration has not had much of either.”

So what might actually be achieved for U.S.-China relations during the visit? Trade relations, which the Trump administration has consistently characterized as unfair and unbalanced, are next on the agenda.

  • But Axios reports that in Washington, Trump aides are all mum on how they plan to change trade relations with China.
  • Also not a good sign: The chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China said, referring to U.S. preparations to negotiate aggressively with the Chinese on trade, that “there really hasn’t been much of that for this visit, which makes us a bit concerned,” according to Reuters.
  • Axios adds that many of Trump’s top advisors won’t even bother to make the trip to China, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Ivanka Trump — nearly as much a celebrity in China as she is in the U.S. — due to stay at home and push for domestic tax reform.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there hasn’t been massive maneuvering from both sides ahead of the trip:

  • The U.S. has signaled its dissatisfaction with Chinese trade practices by imposing anti-dumping duties ranging from 97 percent to 162 percent on Chinese aluminium foil. China responded by saying it was “strongly dissatisfied,” and urged Washington to correct its “mistaken methods,” SCMP reports.
  • The United States International Trade Commission recommended that the U.S. “impose restrictions on solar power equipment purchased from abroad, including tariffs,” largely to shield American manufacturers from China, the New York Times says (paywall).
  • 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,” Reuters reports.
  • The two sides also engaged in a war of words over whether China qualifies as a “market economy,” after the U.S. Commerce Department said in a memo that China’s government was causing “fundamental distortions” in its economy, and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce argued that the U.S. had “ignored massive achievements China made in building a market economy,” according to Bloomberg.

—Lucas Niewenhuis