Donald Trump’s relationship to China is conditioned by the two nations’ power struggle, suggests Joseph Bosco of The Hill. While abrupt, his tariffs represent him imposing America’s authority. He made concessions and showed goodwill early on in their relationship. When China then proved stubborn in helping along negotiations with North Korea, Trump understood that assertiveness was needed. He put strong tariffs on Chinese goods, taking counter-tariffs in his stride. This is crucial in his strategy of showing that China can’t push the U.S. around, which relates to its aspirations in the South China Sea. His strategy aims to ensure America has the upper hand.
President Trump has tried to punish China’s transgressions, such as cyber attacks against the U.S., with tariffs and confrontation, but these won’t succeed, reports Alex Ward of Vox. Key is that his strategy of economically isolating the country will only work if implemented long term. Given that he will only lead America for a maximum of six years, that strategy won’t work. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is set to be in power for decades. A few years of tariffs won’t warp his behavior. Already he has responded to Trump by getting closer to Iran and Russia. China is pushing back while being poised to resist any pressure Trump can put on it.