Less than two weeks after a Chinese delegation’s visit to Washington, when the United States and China issued a joint statement stating both sides reached consensus on trade disputes, the White House has unveiled a series of actions to punish China for "certain discriminatory and burdensome trade practices."
In addition to investment restrictions and enhanced export controls, the United States also plans to release a final list of Chinese products valued at $50 billion to be subject to 25 percent import tariffs on June 15, the White House said in a statement. The United States would also continue to pursue litigation at the World Trade Organization over China’s discriminatory practices for licensing intellectual property, according to the statement.
In response, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce called the statement from the White House "unexpected, but also within our expectations," which is obviously against the consensus both sides agreed upon not long ago in Washington.
Raising the Stakes
However, political analysts argued that the sudden policy shift fits perfectly into the US president’s typical bargaining tactics in a business negotiation.
"US policies under Trump have a lot of his personal touches. Sometimes, it looks like the policies could change at any time. But Trump has always been a businessman. The apparent policy shifts are simply part of his bargaining strategy. He just wants to apply maximum pressure to the other side and force them to give him what he wanted. This strategy seems to work for him in previous negotiations. From this perspective, his strategy has never changed," Zhang Baohui, director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, told Sputnik.
During a regular press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying stressed that every time a nation changes its face and reverse its position in international relations, it could waste and squander its national credibility.
But Professor Zhang from Lingnan University has pointed out that Trump does not seem to care about the international reputation of the United States.
"Such tactics are indeed rarely used in international relations. But a nation’s credibility has no impact in bilateral negotiations. Everything will be decided by a nation’s strength, which Trump understands very well. He knows the nation’s interest is the most important. He does not care about his country’s international reputation at all. That’s why maybe Trump is smart in this way. He has a lot of experiences in similar negotiations in the business world," he said.
According to the joint statement both nations released earlier, China agreed to expand imports of US products to offset the massive US trade deficit. US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is expected to visit Beijing in the near future to work out the details of the deal.
The latest trade threats from the Trump administration, ahead of a new round of trade negotiations between the two nations, could put Chinese leaders in an awkward position, Professor Zhang indicated.
"China is likely to make further concessions during Ross’ next trip to Beijing, because Chinese leaders understand that the massive trade imbalance with the United States needs to be addressed to avoid further escalation of trade tensions. But Chinese leaders definitely do not want to appear weak in the eyes of the general public in China. That’s why it could become a huge headache for them," he said.
Other Chinese experts suggested that Chinese authorities could lower tension with the United States by demonstrating its willingness to accept existing world orders.
"China can try to resolve the current crisis by focusing on domestic development and avoid leaving the impression to the United States that it is trying to overhaul the existing world order or challenge US dominance globally," Hu Xingdou, a professor of economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told Sputnik.
The Beijing-based scholar explained that China could avoid being viewed as a threat to the United States by accepting universal values and trying to participate in existing world order actively.
"Both officials in the US government and the general public in the United States have changed their attitude toward China completely, moving away from the intention to contain or accept China as a member of the global civilization in the past 30-40 years. Unless China gradually accepts universal values and try to learn about the rules and become part of the mainstream civilization. We’re a developing nation. We need to respect existing rules, become part of it and then try to make changes slowly. We succeeded in doing this economically in the past several decades. We can make people feel that China is not an outcast or a threat," Hu said.
The expert pointed out that the rise of India or Japan did not raise similar alarms in the West.
In addition to introducing steep tariffs on future Chinese high-tech exports, the United States also plans to shorten the length of visas for Chinese students in certain fields such as robotics, aviation and high-tech manufacturing, US media reported.
Professor Hu believes such restrictions could have a strong impact on innovations and technological development in China.
"The new restrictions could have serious impact on China. That’s because as a rising nation, China still relies heavily on learning and borrowing technologies from other nations, making progress based on this. Indigenous innovations or inventions are still very rare in China. Some people may argue that we can learn to become more independent. But the kind of closed-door independence will only widen the gap between us and the rest of the world," he said.
Professor Zhang from Lingnan University added that such visa restriction on Chinese students was not something new in the Trump administration, as the Obama administration also introduced similar restrictions as a way to contain China’s technological advance.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.