Well here we are, dear readers, in the Trumpian Year of the Rooster. And like the chicken in the movie Moana, we have no idea as to what’s going on, beyond the fact that it increasingly appears the Russians have something on him.
The Trump effect is manifested in the China context in various ways – swings from hard-line statements over to cozy assurances of “One China”. But what it all adds up to is that for the first time in decades, Those in Command in Beijing probably have no idea of what Washington is planning. Perhaps Washington doesn’t know either. Is that good or bad? Depends on your point of view. Conducting foreign policy using the knee-jerk tweeting approach is a new phenomenon and it will take a while for us all to get used to it.
In the meantime, our guess is that the Chinese are more likely to act with caution on all the various issues suddenly in crazy play, because – here’s our core opinion once again – they need the US more than the US needs China. And if things were to start unraveling on any of the potential China-related issues – Taiwan, SCS, trade and so on – it’s impossible to know where it goes. In other words, there is more potential downside for Those in Command from Chaos Under Heaven than there is for Washington.
Actually, the Monkey King is sort of Trump, isn’t he? No doubt in Beijing, as in many others places, people are watching this and asking: Is this sustainable? How does it play out, and over what time frame? In terms of Sun Tzu strategy, China is probably being presented with a huge opportunity here thanks to US confusion, but then again, be careful when you mess with the Monkey King. A “wuwei” Taoist action-through-non-action approach could well be their best approach for a little while. And of course, inevitably, a Confucius saying to round it out for this Friday: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”