BREAKING NEWS : Large police presence at Fort Wayne Glenbrook Square Mall Full Story

Tariffs show Trump doesn't want China's help with North Korea

The US and China hit each other with billions of dollars in tariffs this week as the two countries ...

Posted: Mar 23, 2018 12:55 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 12:55 PM

The US and China hit each other with billions of dollars in tariffs this week as the two countries edge closer to a trade war, a dramatic shift in a relationship which seemed to be growing stronger under President Donald Trump as he relied on Beijing for help with North Korea.

"China does not want a trade war, but China is not afraid of a trade war," the country's commerce ministry said in a statement Friday. "We are confident in our capability to face up to any challenge."

That's a marked departure from November, when Chinese state media hailed Trump after his visit to Beijing, and the US leader remarked he had "very good" chemistry with President Xi Jinping.

That Trump seems willing to risk a trade war with China just weeks before what's set to be a history-making meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, shows how sidelined Xi's become in efforts to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The point is underlined by the Trump's appointment Thursday of John Bolton as national security adviser, a longtime hawk who has promoted a military response to North Korea, an option repeatedly denounced by China.

'Sea change' in policy

While candidate Trump was highly critical of China, even accusing the country of "raping" the US on trade, as President he took a very different tack.

On his visit to Beijing last year, he said he gave China "great credit" for its trade policies. "I don't blame China, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens," he said.

At the time, many analysts put this shift in attitude down to personal rapport between Trump and Xi, and Washington's desire for China's assistance in tackling the North Korea issue which has dogged Trump since his election.

Trump prefaced his trade action this week by insisting he views China as a "friend" and said he has "tremendous respect" for Xi. "They are helping us a lot in North Korea," Trump said. "But we have a trade deficit ... there are many different ways of looking at it, but no matter which way you look at it, it is the largest trade deficit of any country in the history of the world."

Euan Graham, Director of the International Security Program at Australia's Lowy Institute, told CNN the "administration's China policy was very narrowly framed around North Korea to start with."

But he pointed to a gradual shift in attitude, in particular a new US national security strategy classifying China and Russia as "revisionist powers," a move that was denounced by Beijing as demonstrating "Cold War mentality."

"That's a sea change which goes beyond the President's whims on policy," he said. "It's reflective of a broader pushback which includes not just the security but also increasingly business leaders, though that does not mean there is widespread support for tariffs."

China 'sidelined' on North Korea

While Trump and many of his supporters have been critics of China in the past, the fact he was willing to risk relations with Beijing would appear to show a shift in thinking in Washington on China's importance on the North Korea issue.

Since the reopening of diplomatic relations between South and North Korea in January, with Pyongyang participating in the Winter Olympics and inviting President Moon Jae-in to North Korea, analysts say Seoul has been in the driving seat on engagement policy.

Kim has never met Xi, and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing have been strained since the death of the North Korean leader's father, Kim Jong Il, and subsequent execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was widely seen as China's man in Pyongyang.

In recent months, Graham said, China has become "diplomatically sidelined from the process because the South Koreans have successfully regained the initiative."

"China was in a rather good position (previously), in that it was sort of a win-win," he added.

"If North Korea came to heel, China could take credit for it, if North Korea misbehaved that took the attention away from China's own strategic challenges in the South China Sea and the Taiwan straits. Now it's not looking so rosy for China on that front."

China's sidelining comes as a potential breakthrough with North Korea seems more likely than at any point in years, with Moon and Kim expected to meet next month -- the first time Kim has met a foreign head of state -- with the potential for a Trump-Kim summit in May.

But while analysts agreed a trade dispute between the US and China did not risk negotiations, new uncertainty has been raised over the talks with the appointment by Trump of arch North Korea hawk John Bolton as national security adviser.

As recently as February, Bolton wrote an op-ed arguing the "legal case for striking North Korea first," and he responded to the news of a potential summit with Pyongyang by asking, "how do you know that the North Korean regime is lying? Answer: Their lips are moving."

Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said Bolton was a "profoundly irresponsible" choice.

"Trump has made the denuclearization of North Korea his signature foreign-policy initiative," he wrote Tuesday. "Bolton is best known for making counterproliferation the handmaiden of war and regime change. Naming him (national security adviser) is just wild. Doing so now is even wilder."

Graham predicted Bolton's hardline thinking "increases the likelihood that the summit will be sabotaged in some way or that the North Koreans now get cold feet."

Bad timing for Xi?

A potential trade war with the US, which could have massive ramifications for China domestically, comes just as Xi was riding high, having begun his second term as President with an option to rule for life.

Analysts had warned that Xi's new absolute power could leave him exposed were the country to face economic or other shocks, as unlike under the previous collective leadership system, there is no one else to bear the blame.

"If 'consolidation of power' was a precondition for implementing his reform program and leading the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, that condition has now been met and he needs to deliver," Jon Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, told CNN last month.

"And, if he doesn't deliver and refuses to go quietly, well that's a scenario we've seen play out in other regimes many times before."

Trade war with the US could provide a dangerous challenge to Xi, but it could also be spun to his benefit, said Andrew Polk, co-founder of Trivium China, a Beijing-based consultancy.

"Xi and Trump are both playing to domestic audiences, and he has a mandate to look tough just like Trump does," he said.

"He can use use this as a rallying cry to get people behind his leadership ... because this is clear aggression from an outside power, it almost plays into Xi's hands domestically."

Trump's well-known capriciousness may also help Beijing's avoid public opprobrium for any potential ramifications should things escalate.

"He is an unpredictable force, they don't even really have to propagandize it," Polk said. "From a messaging standpoint it plays very well for them."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 318894

Reported Deaths: 5561
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion43391855
Lake27599462
Allen18363299
Elkhart17474226
St. Joseph17071234
Hamilton13376169
Vanderburgh9839121
Tippecanoe880629
Porter844886
Johnson6556169
Hendricks6267158
Vigo618187
Monroe542850
Clark522877
Madison5153122
Delaware5014103
LaPorte474695
Kosciusko468540
Howard357977
Warrick329872
Floyd324978
Bartholomew323563
Wayne318074
Marshall308146
Cass302631
Grant282050
Noble261546
Hancock260355
Henry252837
Boone248754
Dubois242931
Dearborn222631
Jackson222534
Morgan215543
Knox189720
Shelby189556
Gibson189426
Clinton182121
DeKalb181632
Lawrence179748
Adams171022
Wabash168121
Miami166614
Daviess160144
Steuben150713
Fayette150034
Jasper147413
Montgomery146627
Harrison145524
LaGrange145031
Whitley140814
Ripley138515
Huntington130910
Decatur128243
Wells127930
Putnam127828
White127522
Clay126523
Randolph126121
Posey124116
Jefferson122916
Scott112320
Greene104653
Jay100713
Sullivan99216
Starke94021
Jennings88714
Fulton86419
Spencer8588
Perry83721
Fountain8078
Washington7837
Franklin71327
Carroll69613
Orange69028
Vermillion6444
Owen6317
Tipton58927
Parke5886
Newton56912
Rush5658
Blackford54012
Pike51619
Pulaski41115
Martin3645
Benton3553
Brown3514
Crawford3031
Union2752
Switzerland2605
Warren2542
Ohio2337
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 40°
Angola
Broken Clouds
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 40°
Huntington
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 43°
Decatur
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 45°
Van Wert
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 45°
Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events