This Saturday, January 28, will mark the start of a new year for the Chinese: the year of the Rooster. But perhaps more importantly, this forthcoming year for the Chinese will also be known as the first year of the Trump presidency.

 

The relationship between China and President Trump has been precocious to this point. Trump has called for America’s need to contain the Chinese economy and to bring jobs back to American soil. Meanwhile in China, the initial response to Trump’s stunning victory was positive, but for the wrong reasons. Trump’s candidacy was mostly viewed with disbelief, seeing the possibility of having someone as inexperienced as Trump as a potential boon for China and their relationship with America. Despite Trump’s campaign promises to hit China with heavy tariffs and start a potential trade war, there never appeared to be any outward concern from China that a Trump presidency could be an impediment to the country or its economy.

Trump has already taken firm action in the hopes of containing China. An executive order was issued which killed the Trans Pacific Partnership, a pact that in theory was supposed to help bring jobs back to the United States economy and to impose limits on the Chinese economy. But, the Trump administration felt it could broker a better deal to contain China and provide more for American workers. Indeed, Trump’s official stance on China and trade is outwardly tough, pinning China as a problem country that is harming America’s economy. Trump’s stance and actions are laid out on his website which reads:

‘5. Instruct the Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator. 6. Instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO. China’s unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO. 7. Use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets — including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962’.

Now, all of these potential actions to limit China and bring jobs back to the American economy are fine and dandy, as long as China is willing to bend to Trump’s will. But really, why should China meet any of Trump’s demands?

For the Chinese, Trump is a potential enemy if he does all of the things he claims. But, there is a very high likelihood that he will not be able to harm China at all and that potentially his actions may backfire, leading to a situation where China will only grow stronger. With hindsight, promises made on the campaign trail do not always come to fruition and considering the difficulty of the task and Trump’s inexperience, it is likely that the measures he suggests will either never materialise or fail when enacted.

Trump is inexperienced as a politician but still believes that he can renegotiate any trade deal to work in his favour. But, as far as the Chinese are concerned, he is merely overconfident — something that could easily be handled.

By leaving the TPP, Trump thinks he can renegotiate a trade deal that will be harsher on the Chinese while providing more for the American workers. This is a bold gamble to take given that if he is unable to strike a deal, or create a better one, China would be in prime position to continue the rocketing pace of its economy while America’s will continue to flounder.

But perhaps Trump will succeed after all. He might follow through and take a firm stance on China, with high tariffs and new trade deals, threatening the Chinese control of islands in the South China Sea, and even going against the One China policy of recognizing the Beijing government instead of the one in Taiwan. Should all this happen though, the repercussions could be severe.

A probable outcome of this situation however, is a trade war where both economies will be in shambles as they continue to increase tariffs to keep pace with each other. This would be a war where neither side can win, causing much detriment to the world’s economy.

But there is another war that could happen. The might of Trump’s policies could meet with the might of the Chinese military. This is not that unrealistic. President of China, Xi Jinping, may feel pressured to flex his muscles and prove his stamina against America. Already, Trump’s spokesman has said that the United States could stop China from getting to its islands in the South China Sea, an action one Chinese newspaper warned could mean war. Although a China-America war is a calamitous and chilling scenario, it is a scenario that should nevertheless be considered.

This upcoming new year for the Chinese will involve a battle of sorts. The actions Trump wants to take will trigger a response from Xi Jinping. Either one of diplomacy and trade, or one that involves bombers and bloodshed.