The world isn't so sure yet which Trump will show up for the long haul. The Chinese government, too, is still deciding how to react to the new U.S. president.
TOKYO — The world has spent months scrambling to decode Donald Trump, unsuccessfully in most cases. Some of us still remain in disbelief at the spectacle unfolding in front of our eyes.
Apparently, the same goes for China.
The Financial Times reported, “Beijing censors have ordered media outlets to tone down their reporting of Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president, as the Communist party weighs its response to a new administration that threatens to tear up the rule book of US-China relations.”
It is still too early to tell whether the United States and China are about to start a trade war by launching a two-way tariff tiff. Political campaign rhetoric aside, there remains a strong chance that the two countries will settle for a pro-growth agenda, each driven by its business and economic needs.
In the semiconductor industry where M&A deals have been rampant, veteran U.S. executives told us they expect scrutiny by CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) — as China angles to buy the U.S. chip vendors — to get worse, “especially under the Trump administration.”
But I also heard an illuminating observation. A U.S. chip company executive based in Silicon Valley, speaking anonymously, said, “Before the election, a high-ranking Chinese official, who sits above China’s Big Fund, told me that he was hoping for Trump to win. Asked why, he said, ‘Because he has no scruples.’”
In the Chinese analysis, an amoral American president is a good thing. “With Trump, everything is negotiable,” the American chip executive explained.
Inaugural speech I happen to be visiting Japan this week. The tone of press coverage about the new administration took a 180-degree turn after Donald Trump took office Friday. A post-election mood of celebration and hope made a sharp shift to fear, uncertainty and loathing.
Indeed, for news consumers outside the United States who haven’t been inundated with 24-hour cable news coverage of the sausage-makings in the new administration, Trump’s inaugural speech came as a rude shock. I found it fascinating that many Japanese pundits, before Trump was sworn in, had simply assumed that Trump would offer a much more benign and gracious view of the world in his first utterance as president.
What they heard, however, was the new president’s familiar dystopian vision of the US economy – a country in economic shambles, “with factories shuttered and left [the U.S.] shores, the wealth of the middle class ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world,” as he put it in his speech.
If there had been any lingering doubts about the sincerity of Trump’s nationalist campaign, now is the time to put them to rest, it seems. The new president couldn’t have made it clearer where he stands last Friday when he said:
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
As the president was sworn in, the new administration wasted no time posting its policy shifts on its website.
As for trade, the Trump administration reiterated its rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated the Obama administration with Japan and ten other Pacific Rim economies. The Trump White House also plans to move as soon as Monday to notify Canada and Mexico that it plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 1994.