Point of View: Trump and China

Questions abound about what the Trump Administration will mean for US-China relations, particularly related to threats of protectionism. The answer will depend on who Donald Trump is once he takes the oath of office (not so much what he said about China the past year), and just as importantly, whom he and his staff place in positions of responsibility for the relationship. The following reflects our attempt to narrow the range of uncertainty in terms of the likely tone and policy mix.

The transition is at an early stage, but high-level appointments and prospective choices announced so far do not generally seem to hold deep anti-China convictions: most are emphasizing other priorities. This is true in both the economic and security domains. The people responsible for the far more aggressive talking points heard in the campaign are still a key part of the mix, shaping the transition teams for mid-level appointments and drafting policy priorities. It will interesting to see how this oil and vinegar mix between principals and the senior staff level works in practice.

Notably, for at least the first year of the new administration, Chinese domestic policy dynamics and choices – rather than the list of Trump campaign China related priorities – are likely to be the main forces reshaping the US-China economic relationship.

Posted August 1, 2017
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