US President Donald Trump once again threatened to impose another round of tariffs on China. He also claimed that alleged Chinese meddling in US politics is “a bigger problem” than 2016 alleged Russian election meddling.
In an interview with CBS he was asked if he wants to push China’s economy in a depression, he said “no.”
“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” he said. He also added that more tariffs might be possible.
So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties. The total import is about $500 billion.
He was also asked about the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections. He answered swiftly and returned to the Chinese matter. “They meddled, but I think China meddled too,” Trump commented.
“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia. He didn’t provide evidence in the interview of China’s involvement in the last election or its involvement in the current election cycle.
Trump accused China of planning to meddle in the November mid-term elections during his chairmanship of the UNSC meeting on nuclear proliferation. He did not provide evidence back then as well.
The Chinese meddling narrative has flooded mainstream media recently.
On October 12th, the US Department of Justice announced that it had arrested and charged a Chinese intelligence officer with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Yanjin Xu, a senior operative with China’s Minister of State Security, was arrested in Belgium on April 1 and extradited to the US on October 9th.
“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” Assistant Attorney General Demers said.
Prior to that, on October 4th, Bloomberg published a story with the headline “The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies.” It claimed that Chinese spies had inserted a covert electronic backdoor into the hardware of computer servers used by 30 US companies, including Amazon and Apple, by compromising US technology supply chain.
First, Apple, Amazon and Supermicro issued denials. Apple’s top security officer told Congress that the company had found no evidence to support the claims made in the report. Then the UK National Cyber Security Centre weighed in, saying that it had “no reason to doubt the detailed assessments made by AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Apple.” The US Department of Homeland Security said much the same.
Supermicro also said that it had “never been contacted by any government agencies either domestic or foreign regarding the alleged claims.”
Media hysteria over it hasn’t subsided, though. Bloomberg even extended its story, claiming that a “major US telecommunications company” had discovered manipulated Supermicro hardware in its network and removed it in August.
Elizabeth Economy, Director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations said that “it is a full-frontal assault by the US on China.”
“There is a general sense in Washington that China is simply too big now, it’s simply too large as a country and as an economy, to allow it to continue to violate all sorts of expected international trade and investment norms,” she said.
Hua Po, a political commentator in Beijing, agreed that trade was only the “superficial” source of friction. According to him, the actual reason for US concern was the Made in China 2025 Plan. According to the plan, China has set a goal of rapidly ensuring that a majority of its industry is sourced internally and not imported.
Hua also said that even if the trade issue is resolved, other problems between China and the US continue to exist. According to him, Trump seemed interested in fighting “a new Cold War.”
On October 14th, China’s ambassador to the US said that he and other diplomats in Washington did not know which advisers Trump turns to when forming policy on trade. Fox News asked him if he thought the president was guided by “moderates or hardliners.” His answer was short “You tell me.”
Diplomats, Cui said, “don’t know who is the final decision-maker. Of course, presumably, the president will take the final decision. But who is playing what role? Sometimes it could be very confusing.”
Fox published a column by Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro, in which he linked policies meant to protect US business to the emergence of China as a major military threat.
Politico also reported that US trade representative Robert Lightizer was implementing “a clear but ultra-high risk battle plan to smash China.” According to Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies, the plan is to wrap up NAFTA talks, then “take the tariffs off the table” in an accord with the EU. “Then we focus on China,” Graham said earlier this month, after speaking with Trump. “The goal of President Trump is to unite the world against Chinese business practices that are outside the norm.”
By the time this happens it might be too late though, there are tensions brewing in the South China Sea, with mostly US forces constantly provoke China.
Currently, the entire US-China situation seems to be moving toward an escalation. Relations are rapidly deteriorating, and the Trump administration is claiming to take further steps in the trade war. If China resists the pressure, this diplomatic and economic pressure would further regionalize the world. China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the EU will have to create an economic model that would be resistant to US pressure. The first steps have been made, with the remaining signatories on the Iran Nuclear Deal announcing that on September 24th they agreed on a new payment system that avoids the dollar and conventional channels.
Turkey, Russia, China and India are already openly moving towards making payments on their mutual contracts, especially in the military field. These payments happen in national currencies. They are also boosting their regional cooperation.
The US is aimed at increasing its global control is instead undermining it with its sanction policy.