Believe it or not, Donald Trump is not interested in China ceding its positions and bending under US pressure, says Tom McGregor, a Beijing-based political analyst and Asia-Pacific commentator for China's national TV broadcaster CNTV, commenting on the US-Chinese trade negotiations in Beijing, which kicked off on May 3.
"The worst case scenario for Trump is for China to make a bold announcement and say they have agreed to all of Trump's trade demands and will sign a China-US trade agreement right now," the political analyst told Sputnik. "Trump has the image of a fighter. If the trade war ends, Trump can no longer make a strong appeal to Democrat voters in 2020. So Trump is gambling that Beijing will refuse to sign a trade deal anytime soon. I believe he's making the right judgment call here."
The Beijing-based commentator pointed out that the ongoing trade dispute is actually not about trade per se, but the countries' geopolitical posture and the future of their leadership.
According to McGregor, one should prepare for a protracted trade war which is "inevitable, since it serves both sides to pursue tough negotiations."
"Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to emerge as a leader of a newly-emerging superpower, which explains his decision to eliminate term-limits over his leadership of the nation. To look strong, he cannot lose a trade dispute to Washington in just a matter of months," the analyst explained.
Trade Wars and Trump's Re-Election Bid
"We can expect years for everything to get resolved and that's fine for Trump and Xi," McGregor believes.
According to McGregor, one needs to look at Trump's foreign strategy through the lens of the US president's 2020 re-election bid. The analyst described a potential scenario of how the situation could unfold.
"Trump will run for re-election to the White House on two major themes (but for the record I'm just speculating). He will pledge to 'Drain the Swamp' by firing the 'Three Stooges' at the Department of Justice (DOJ) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller," the commentator presumed, adding that an investigation could be launched against "Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey and of course the entire alleged criminal gang at the Clinton Foundation, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
However, to gain a landslide victory Trump needs Democrats voting for him too: "He can appeal to Labor Union voters and blue-collar workers," the analyst noted. "His trade wars against China will seal the deal on victory for Trump's re-election bid."
So what about the end results? The analyst believes that "if Trump wins re-election, Xi will negotiate terms for an amazing trade deal that brings win-win solutions for both nations, Trump will accept such terms, since he can't run for office again."
"Both leaders are likely to sign the deal in late 2021 right before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are held. This will create spectacular optics as the world will see the US and China have finally reached a deal on trade and the two countries will enjoy great bilateral relations for the future," McGregor predicted.
At the same time, if Trump loses to a Democratic candidate in 2020, Beijing is likely to return to business as normal in regards to US-China trade, the commentator envisions. "You will see a huge upsurge of US-China trade deficits again," he said. "Why should Beijing offer better terms to the Americans if they know a US President from the Democrat Party will not even try to act tough against them? The Chinese only respect strength when negotiating against a party. If they know somebody is a pushover they will exploit that to their advantage."
China Has More to Lose in Case of Large-Scale Trade War With US
However, if the US-China trade war goes full throttle, it will be no walk in the park for Beijing, the analyst warned.
"Look at the numbers. China has more to lose. When a nation has a huge trade surplus with another nation, any change in the status quo can only harm them. It's just basic common sense. They can inflict some pain on the US, but the US can cause deeper harm on China," McGregor stressed.
The Beijing-based analyst noted that if the two countries stop bilateral trade, it is China who will lose more money in this case. He remarked that the irony of the situation is that the US states which could lose the biggest in case of trade wars would be New York, California and Washington. However, "voters in those states are hard-core Democrats," McGregor said. "Trump has nothing to lose here on that matter."
Tensions Around the South China Sea is 'Bluster' and 'Bluffing'
As for the latest CNBC report about China's deployment of anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile systems on the Spratly Islands, it is highly unlikely that Washington and Beijing would be involved in an armed conflict.
"Whatever happens in the South China Sea or elsewhere is nothing more than military posturing and bluster," McGregor believes. "It's just bluffing to make your armed forces look bigger and stronger than your rival. So such incidents are not a big deal in the overall long-term outlook of the geo-politics, economics and diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region."
Simultaneously, the CNBC broke that Beijing has allegedly installed its anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile systems in the South China Sea. Commenting on the matter, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defended China's deployment of missile systems, stressing "the relevant deployment targets no one" and reiterating "anyone with no invasive intention will find no reason to worry about this."
The views and opinions expressed by Tom McGregor and Ekaterina Blinova are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.