23:26 GMT29 November 2020
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    United States President Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross may share the fate of General Michael Flynn who recently resigned as the administration’s national security advisor over his alleged ties with Russia, according to an article in the Chinese newspaper Global Times.

    Ross was nominated for the post by Trump in early-December, but has not yet been approved by a vote in Congress.

    According to the newspaper, the scandals over Flynn and Ross are "unexpected attacks" against the presidential administration, within just one month after Trump’s inauguration. Earlier, US mainstream media launched a campaign against Ross.

    For example, the Wall Street Journal reported that 79-year-old billionaire Ross will keep his stakes in 11 private companies, including Diamond S Shipping, one of the world’s largest owners and operators of oil tankers. According to the newspaper, in 2011, Ross’ investment fund W.L. Ross & Co and its partners, including China Investment Corporation (CIC), invested nearly $1 billion in Diamond S Shipping.

    In order to rebuff allegations about Ross’ close commercial ties with China, his spokesperson said that CIC was a passive minority investor in the deal.

    Meanwhile, according to the Financial Times, Ross is facing questions over potential conflicts of interest stemming from business ties to China.

    "By reason of that type of co-investor relationship, Ross’ impartiality in handling a commerce department proceeding involving CIC could reasonably be questioned, so he should recuse [himself] from any proceedings involving CIC," Kathleen Clark, a Washington University law professor, told the newspaper.

    Global Times noted that Ross has a complicated relationship with China. Before joining the Trump team, he had a broad network of contacts with China and was an advocate of Beijing’s economic policy. However, after hearings in Congress in January, Ross described China as the "most protectionist country." At the same time, Ross said that Beijing stands for fair trade but in fact does not follow the principle.

    Mikhail Belyayev, an expert at the Institute for Stock Market and Management, said that an information attack against Ross is predictable, with the possible conflicts of interest being just a pretext.

    "Donald Trump has found himself in a pretty complicated situation. He won the election but he needs solid ground. Now he is under information attacks from all directions. The Democrats are attacking him because they cannot accept the defeat [in the election]. But he’s also attacked by business elites used to ruling the US. Trump in the Oval Office means their influence will be weakened. But in order to do that, he needs a perfect team. In this context, Ross is a vulnerable person," Belyayev told Sputnik Chinese.

    According to the expert, Trump’s opponents will play the "Chinese card" to intensify attacks on Ross and ultimately undermine the policy of Trump’s administration.

    In an interview with Sputnik Chinese, Bian Yongzu, an expert at the Center for Financial Studies, at the Beijing People’s University, commented on the future of US-China trade ties if Ross is approved as US Secretary of Commerce.

    "Trump is a businessman, so he’s got a lot of business people on board. Ross has commercial ties with China but also he is a critic of China’s protectionism. In practice, Ross is an advocate of making profits and reaching compromises. By his remarks about trade tariffs against China, he may be testing the waters, in a bid to find a compromise," Bian Yongzu pointed out.

    The expert also suggested that like Trump, Ross lacks experience in politics and if approved he will have to ease his rhetoric.

    "If he is appointed he will follow the logic of business, aimed to make profits from US-China trade ties. This is why insignificant tensions are possible in trade between Washington and Beijing. At the same time, if Ross acts rationally there will be more chances for cooperation and fewer conditions for trade wars," he said.

    The buzz over Ross’ ties to China would not have been that loud if Flynn’s resignation had not cast a shadow on Washington-Beijing relations.

    According to South China Morning Post, Flynn was the most high-profile White House official who had the first contacts with Chinese officials. A week before Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation Flynn spoke to Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

    According to Zhu Feng, a US-China relations professor at the Nanjing University, Flynn was one of the most familiar persons in Trump’s team with whom China had contacts with.

    "It is like a communication channel was cut off. That could have some impact on Sino-US relations because [Beijing] seemed to be just getting to know the new administration," Zhu was quoted as saying by South China Morning Post.

    In this context, observers and analysts are looking forward to a possible meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US State Secretary Rex Tillerson in Germany, on the sidelines of a G20 summit.


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    resignation, scandal, Michael Flynn, Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump, China, US
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