Two things became clear on a nine-day trip to China, as I traveled from smoggy Beijing to glitzy Shanghai, from high-tech Shenzhen to reinvent-yourself Guangzhou in China’s southern rust belt.
First, the air pollution is as awful as its reputation. Beijing skyscrapers were nearly invisible as my plane descended and the hacking cough I acquired from pollution particles has yet to calm down.
Second, the relationship between China and the United States will become increasingly tense if President-elect Trump continues to publicly challenge Beijing without any apparent rationale behind his tweeting or broadsides. During my travels a new U.S.-Chinese contretemps erupted almost daily.
Yes, there is justification for a firmer U.S. stance toward China on trade imbalances and freedom of the seas and Beijing’s reluctance to squeeze North Korea. But berating the Chinese with no strategy behind the bluster won’t work to America’s advantage, as I heard repeatedly from Chinese officials, academics, and think tankers, as well as from American businessmen in China.
Nor do tweets convey toughness to the Chinese.
Indeed, Trump’s modus operandi is more likely to provoke Chinese retaliation than produce a great deal.
China initially saw the Trump win as advantageous because he appeared ready to pull back from U.S. alliances and overseas involvements in order to focus on domestic issues.
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