China created an impression of power, and it was not clear how the US administration would proceed with China: by 2009 therew was the impression of a shift within the US administration towards greater accommodation of China. The American reaction to the USS Impeccable incident in March 2009 showed a disconnect, and created the impression that the US felt the need to accommodate the Chinese. It looked like the US was adjusting to a new reality. The US response to the Impeccable fed into China's efforts to create an impression of power that might be used to coerce other nations.
During the course of the November 2014 APEC Summit in Beijing, the US and China signed a series of agreements in the military sphere that will help the two countries reduce the risk of a military confrontation in Eastern Asia. The agreements establish a framework for cooperation in the event that either side takes any large-scale military actions, requiring the parties to inform each other in advance of any such steps. The document also sets out a code of conduct to be followed if U.S. or Chinese military air or naval units come into contact with each other.
The countries decided to sign the agreement because lately there had been an increase in incidents (in particular, China's inclusion of the East China Sea territory in its air defense zone) that are capable of placing Beijing and Washington on the verge of a conflict that would be disadvantageous for both sides.
Michael Pillsbury is the director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute and has served in presidential administrations from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. His book, "The Hundred-Year Marathon", draws on his extensive knowledge of Chinese historical military writings and theory as well as his interactions with Chinese defectors and senior military officers to develop a compelling analytical defense of his thesis that China constitutes, by far, the biggest national challenge to America’s position in the world today. Pillsbury argues that China is not just in competition with the US but intent on remaking the international system in its only likeness by 2049, (the 100th anniversary of the current Chinese government coming to power).
On the campaign trail, Trump routinely attacked China over its trade policies and practices, pledged to designate Beijing a currency manipulator on his first day in office and levy punishing import tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump was also very critical of the United States’ military allies in the region. During his campaign, Trump targeted Beijing’s trade practices, threatening to slap 45-percent tariffs on Chinese imports.
"There's a whole range of relatively outlandish statements that Trump said during his campaign that if they were to come to pass, could create some pretty dramatic business and economic consequences for the region," Ethan Cramer-Flood, associate director of the Conference Board’s China Center for Economics and Business, said in Beijing. "The good news for China is that a Trump presidency will most likely mean the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a regional free trade grouping that Beijing was excluded from and has yet to be finalized," he said. "China sees the grouping as a threat to its own regional trade ambitions.... The bad news on Trump’s rhetoric and trade globalization is that it was directed at China".
In China, analysts note that many of the hawks and nationalists are excited about a Trump presidency because of what they see as isolationist global view. They also see Trump’s “pay for friendship" approach to relations with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines as benefiting Beijing’s own ambitions in the region. “Some in China feel that they will have an opportunity to come and fill in those spaces as the Trump team sort of withdraws or creates new tension points," said Cramer-Flood.
"I don't want China dictating to me," Trump said in an interview on Fox News 11 December 2016. He defended his phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the first contact between a Taiwan leader and a U.S. president or president-elect since 1979, when the United States acknowledged that Taiwan was part of a unified China. "I don't know why we have to be bound by a one China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade," Trump said.
"We're being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don't tax them, with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn't be doing, and frankly with not helping us at all with North Korea," Trump said. "You have North Korea. You have nuclear weapons and China could solve that problem and they're not helping us at all." Trump lied about Chinese and US tariffs. China imposes levies ranging from 5.0 to 9.7 percent on US goods, while the US collects 2.5 to 2.9 percent tariffs on Chinese goods.
Chinese state media warned that any new tariffs imposed by Trump would lead to retaliation against Boeing, Apple iPhones and U.S. corn and soybeans. For example, The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, warned that China could retaliate by limiting sales of U.S. cars and by ordering aircraft from Europe's Airbus instead of America's Boeing.
Trump staffed his trade transition team personnel experienced in the US steel industry's struggle with China. Wilbur Ross, a billionaire steel investor, was Trump's nominee for commerce secretary. Dan DiMicco, the former CEO of steelmaker Nucor Corp, has accused China of waging a "mercantilist trade war" on the United States for two decades, through currency manipulation, unfair subsidies and intellectual property theft. Robert Lighthizer and Jeffrey Gerrish represented United States Steel and Stephen Vaughn represented AK Steel in cases filed against China since 2013. These members of Trump's trade team were expected to shift the US trade focus toward enforcement to reduce the chronic US trade deficit.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was nominated to be the next United States ambassador to China. Branstad is a longtime friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his nomination was welcomed by Beijing. "Governor Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang. "We welcome the fact that he is to play a great role in promoting the development of China-US relations." President Xi has known Branstad since 1985, when he visited Iowa as part of an official delegation studying pig-raising techniques. China is a crucial export market for the Midwestern state of Iowa, which is a major producer of pigs, soybeans and corn. Branstad's personal ties with Xi could help smooth relations between the U.S. and China, which have come into greater focus since Donald Trump's victory.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to Donald Trump to congratulate him on winning the US presidency. China's state TV reported that Xi told Trump the two biggest economies in the world share responsibility for promoting global development and prosperity. Xi said the stable and healthy long-term development of China-US relations is in the fundamental interest of the Chinese and American peoples. Xi stressed that he places great importance on the China-US relationship. And he said he looks forward to working with Trump to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and cooperation.
The U.S. defense secretary Jim Mattis said 04 February 2017 that “China has shredded the trust of nations in the region, apparently trying to have a veto authority over the diplomatic and security and economic conditions of neighboring states... “What we have to do is exhaust all efforts, diplomatic efforts, to try to resolve this properly, maintaining open lines of communication ... At this time we do not see any need for dramatic military moves."
Donald Trump, as a famous entrepreneur, filed more than 80 trademarks in China using his name over the past decade, most of which have been granted. According to a report on Beijing Youth Daily, Trump filed his first five trademarks in 2005. In 2015 alone, when he announced he would take part in the presidential election, he filed more than 40 trademark applications in China. The applied trademarks cover a wide range of businesses, such as real estate, financial services, insurance, education, spas, social escort services, bodyguards, hotels and massage parlours.
China awarded Donald Trump a valuable new trademark. The win came after a 10-year dispute and raised a host of ethical questions about the president's foreign intellectual property. China's Trademark Office posted the registration of Trump's new mark, which became official Feb. 14, to its website. It gave Trump the right to use his name for building construction services in China through 2027. This may be the first foreign trademark Trump had received as president, but it's unlikely to be the last. He had 49 pending trademark applications in China alone.
From the end of February to early March 2017, Chinese authorities for industry and commerce published the provisional approvals for nearly 40 Trump trademarks. Analysts say that it is quite unusual for China to grant a large volume of trademarks in such a short time period. It can be regarded as a special treatment to the Trump administration. Some say the approvals came much more quickly than usual. “They’re trying to curry favor with the president," Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland told the AP.
The US government was expected to impose punitive duties on steel imports from China after a finding that says the Beijing-subsidized goods are being sold at below fair value and harming the domestic industry. The ruling on 03 March 2017 by the US International Trade Commission allowed for the imposition of an anti-dumping duty of up to 76.64 percent and a countervailing duty of up to 190.71 percent on stainless steel sheet and strip. Carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate will also be subject to duties of 68.27 percent and 251 percent. Trump had repeatedly criticized China over the trade imbalance between the countries. US trade authorities had already imposed punitive duties on a series of Chinese imports, including products for road paving, a heat-resistant fabric called amorphous silica, and ammonium sulfate, a material to make fertilizers.
In a speech to opening session of the annual National People's Congress at Beijing's Great Hall of the People 05 March 2017, Premier Li Keqiang promised to eliminate 50 million metric tons of steel production capacity.
Donald Trump made strong statements on China with regard to trade, the South China Sea and the North Korean missile program in a bid to set the stage for negotiations aimed at reducing Washington's trade deficit with Beijing. In general, the Trump administration has increased tensions in the bilateral relationship. Some saw this as a preparation for bargaining.
The US sought to pressure China, North Korea's main trading partner and historical ally, to use its influence to curb its rogue neighbor's weapons program. Trump has accused China of not doing enough, while Beijing has voiced alarm over a US anti-missile defense system being deployed in South Korea. In an April 2017 interview with the "Financial Times" newspaper, Trump said : "China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don't it won't be good for anyone". US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley agreed that China needs to cooperate on handling North Korea. "They need to put pressure on North Korea. The only country that can stop North Korea is China, and they know that," said Haley.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on 06 April 2017 engaged with Donald Trump in a deep-going, friendly and long-time exchange, as the ever first meeting between them briefly caught the global spotlight. During his two-day stay in Florida, Xi held several talks with Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which Trump calls "the Southern White House," to exchange views on bilateral ties and major regional and global issues of common concern. Trump said the two leaders had quickly “developed a friendship," and he predicted that “long term we’re going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it."
On 14 November 2017 Trump concluded his five-nation, 12-day trip to Asia with no major policy announcements but declared it “a tremendously successful trip," noting “I’ve made a lot of friends at the highest level." Former Obama administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice contended Trump’s trip left the United States “more isolated and in retreat, handing leadership of the newly christened ‘Indo-Pacific’ to China on a silver platter." After a solid start in Japan and South Korea, “in China the wheels began to come off his diplomatic bus," she wrote in an opinion column in the New York Times. “The Chinese leadership played President Trump like a fiddle, catering to his insatiable ego and substituting pomp and circumstance for substance."
In a commentary published by the Wall Street Journal in 2016, Trump's new National Security Adviser John Bolton said it was time to shake up U.S.-China relations. "This may involve modifying or even jettisoning the ambiguous 'one-China' mantra, along with even more far-reaching initiatives to counter Beijing's rapidly accelerating political and military aggressiveness in the South and East China seas," wrote Bolton.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said 23 March 2018 the Chinese position on the policy "is very clear and the United States is very clear about this." "No matter who holds the position, the importance of Sino-U.S. relations is self-evident and there will be no change," she added. "China and the United States respect each other, focus on cooperation, properly handle their differences to achieve a mutual beneficial and win-win result. This is consistent with the common interests of China and the United States, and is also the common expectation of the international community."
China responded swiftly to President Donald Trump's announced plans to levy tariffs on up to $60 billion on Chinese goods, warning the proposed move risks pushing trade relations into the danger zone. In a statement 23 March 2018, just hours after President Trump signed a memo paving the way for major tariffs on nearly 1,300 Chinese imports, China's Commerce Ministry called on Washington to carefully consider its next policy steps, urging it to "pull back from the brink." The ministry also announced in a separate statement it was mulling retaliatory measures to steel and aluminum tariffs announced by the Trump administration earlier this month. In the statement, the ministry said if necessary it would target 128 different U.S. imports.
The United States is not the only country concerned with China's practices of forced technology transfers in joint ventures, subsidies for state-owned companies, and intellectual property theft. China's systemic trade apparatus supports economic nationalist policies that are very, very supportive of its own industries through various protectionist mechanisms.
China denies the accusations of unfair trade practices and has pledged to continue to open up its markets. On 21 March 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said there will be no forced technology transfers and pledged to better protect intellectual property. A day before Li spoke with the press, the country's newly appointed governor of the Central Bank of China, Yi Gang, promised a number of reforms to open up the financial sector were coming over the next few weeks.