Trump flummoxing China's ambitions

James Carafano:
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For starters, it is difficult to over-emphasize how much Xi’s “vision” at the party Congress served as a trigger warning to the rest of the world. To Xi, the plan for a global band of belts and roads with China at the hub sounded like an opportunity and gift to the world. To others, it sounded like the revenge of the Opium Wars, with the Chinese recreating the most extreme excesses of the British Empire in reverse – a systematic campaign of exploitation and domination, without any of the liberalizing impulses of the British peoples.

Then, some of the biggest jewels of Beijing’s belt-and-road crown started to look like paste. Beijing’s port deal in Sri Lanka turned out to be a massive debt trap for the island nation. Pakistan’s “economic corridor” deal with Beijing has so far done little more than drive Islamabad to unprecedented depths of insolvency.

China’s brand has not yet gone the way of New Coke, but it has taken a beating. Worldwide, nations are actively debating if buying Chinese telecom equipment will put their national security in peril.

And China’s abysmal human rights record continues to alienate many. Putting a million Uighurs in concentration camps didn’t help. But even Beijing’s smaller outrages – such as occurred recently at a Canadian university, where Chinese foreign students organized a bullying campaign against a Tibetan student leader – are getting attention.

Meanwhile, Trump has not proved to be putty in Xi’s hands. Rather, Xi has his hands full with a trade war – and just when China’s economy can least afford one.

Moreover, since the Mar-a-Lago Love Fest, the U.S. has upped its support for Taiwan and conducted several freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. These actions are correct, but they are in no way calculated to win friends in Beijing.

All this has left Beijing scrambling to keep its narrative about China’s inevitable rise alive. Chinese officials are busy rebranding the Belt and Road initiative, as well as renegotiating some debt deals.
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The China economy is struggling because Trump has made them pay for their unfair trading practices.  He has proven to be a much more wary trading partner than they expected and far better than Obama who was completely over his head when it came to negotiating a business deal.

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