Diversion and ultimatum for Xi
By Paul Lin 林保華
There were two main elements to the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平): A “diversion” and a “100-day ultimatum.” The initiative was in Trump’s hands, and Xi had to return home empty-handed.
Xi was only able to go through Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) to boast about the establishment of “four mechanisms for dialogue” between China and the US, while the Chinese media fabricated news about the Taiwan issue.
In his book titled The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, US China expert Michael Pillsbury listed various tactics that China had used to deceive the US over the past few decades. Creating a diversion to confuse the enemy is one of “36 tricks” that the Chinese have employed as part of the tactics Pillsbury describes.
Trump also made use of the diversion strategy during the meeting, by firing missiles at Syria, which served the dual purpose of intimidating North Korea and its Chinese masters in the Western Pacific.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that when Trump informed Xi about the missile attack in their face-to-face meeting, Xi said that he understood the necessity of the attack in response to the deaths of children.
Before that, Trump had his grandchildren sing the Chinese folk song Molihua (茉莉花, “Jasmine Flower”) to please Xi and make him lower his guard, in an attempt to coax him and China to endorse the US missile attack.
During his visit to Beijing last month, Tillerson also endorsed the “new model of great power relations” that Xi had proposed. This is the new model for US-China relations, according to which they treat each other with mutual respect and oppose each other with equal harshness.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross revealed another result of the Xi-Trump meeting, when he told the media that the Chinese had agreed to a “100-day plan” for trade talks that will boost US exports and reduce the US’ trade deficit with China.
Beijing kept a low profile on the issue, but this was the thing that Trump needed most from the meeting.
The “100-day plan” is more like Trump’s “100-day ultimatum” to Xi. A slowing Chinese economy has become the new normal and Beijing seems to be “drinking poison to quench its thirst” by establishing the high-profile “Xiongan New Area” (雄安新區) in Hebei Province.
The “100-day plan” is likely to have an adverse impact on the Chinese economy. If Xi fails to achieve the goals set by Trump within 100 days, people will start paying attention to the state of US-China relations.
Considering the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) habit of saying one thing but doing another, there will not be “100 days of reform.” Rather, the CCP will employ a strategy of delay to deceive the US with sweet talk and superficial achievements, while buying over politicians and business tycoons to lobby on behalf of the CCP. Will Trump be fooled by the CCP? People will learn in 100 days.
As to the four mechanisms for dialogue, dialogue between China and the US has always ended with Washington realizing that it had been tricked. It seems that Trump might ignore such dialogue in the same way that he ignored Xi’s talk by not removing his translation earpiece at the end of the meeting.
Meanwhile, the CCP is busy preparing for its 19th National Congress, which is to take place around the end of the 100-day period. It would be difficult and embarrassing for Beijing to appear weak to Washington and sacrifice its own interests to help Trump accomplish his aims. This soft spot of Xi’s is a great opportunity for the US.
The North Korean issue will be another Chinese nightmare during the period. However, if the US wants to resolve the problem by itself, it will probably wait until the deployment of its Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in South Korea is complete next month and there is a stable new government in South Korea.
As for Trump’s promise to visit China, such a visit is unlikely to take place before winter. Since the CCP’s 19th National Congress will be held in fall, Trump would only cause more trouble for Xi if he were to visit Beijing and talk nonsense before the event.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang