Donald Trump’s plan for China relations is to be unpredictable, consultant says

Since his election, Trump has confounded Beijing with comments on South China Sea, Taiwan and the yuan

Donald Trumps game plan for relations with China is to use unpredictability as an instrument of wrong-footing the countrys Communist party leaders and extracting economic concessions, a prominent adviser has said.

Since his election, Trump and his team have repeatedly discombobulated the Chinese government with a series of interventions on sensitive issues such as the South China Sea, US relations with Taiwan and Chinas alleged manipulation of its currency, the yuan.

Those moves have unsettled and raged Beijing, which had expected Trump to tone down his anti-China rhetoric after his victory.

In an interview with Chinas state-run broadcaster, Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official and longtime China scholar, suggested Trumps decision to repeatedly tweak Beijings nose was part of a calculated strategy.

The US president believed the Chinese were the best negotiators in the whole world, so to get an advantage he wants to be unpredictable in the eyes of the Chinese government, Pillsbury told CGTN, an international mouthpiece for the Chinese government that was formerly called CCTV. I think he has succeeded in this, dont you?

Pillsbury, a fluent Mandarin speaker who is known for his contacts within Chinas Peoples Liberation Army and has been advising Trumps team, said the president had outlined this strategy in his most recent book, Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America.

In it Trump writes: The component of surprise wins battles. So I dont tell the other side what Im doing, I dont advise them, and I dont let them fit me comfortably into a predictable pattern I like being unpredictable. It keeps them off balance.

In a chapter on foreign policy, Trump accuses his predecessors of rolled over for Beijing and hints it will be one of the main targets of his strategy. There are people who wish I wouldnt refer to China as our adversary. But thats exactly what they are, Trump writes.

China specialists on both sides of the Pacific fear relations between Beijing and Washington could deteriorate rapidly under Trump, increasing the risks of a potentially calamitous great power conflict.

However, Pillsbury, who has written a book about a supposed Chinese plot to become the worlds preeminent military, political and economic power by 2049, claimed ties could warm.

I say the road to attaining America great again operates through Beijing, he told CGTN, calling for greater Chinese investment in the US. It can be win-win. I think it will be win-win, Pillsbury told, use one of the favourite phrases of Chinese diplomats.

Another China scholar who is understood to have offered advice to Trumps team also said this week that he believed an improved relationship was on the cards.

I dont quite understand why people seem to be operating under the assumption that the relationship with China was good and now all of a sudden it is going to change to be less good, Daniel Blumenthal, the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington-based thinktank, told the Guardian.

Theres going to be new areas of cooperation that couldnt have occurred under President Obama for domestic political reasons.[ For instance] it seems that the United States is going to deregulate is again its oil and gas sectors and theres cooperation that can happen there with China in terms of even becoming a supplier or China becoming an investor, he added.

Columbia University China specialist Andrew Nathan told Pillsbury was known for writing an influential article in the mid-1 970 s that called for US cooperation with China as a route of pressuring Moscow.

Im not sure Pillsbury would be adverse to some kinds of bargains with China over issues of potential cooperation, he told. I wouldnt rule out various kinds of bargains as a potential direction.

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