“An RPCV writes home from China” — Arnold Zeitlin (Ghana)


It’s bad enough we have a president who is described as a narcissist but it’s even worse when he is combined with a China policy that is schizophrenic.

I was reminded of that condition the other day. I heard Sen. Cory Gardner, a 42-year-old Republican from Colorado, open a think tank’s discussion about China’s “fault lines”…and “instability.” He is chairman of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and international cybersecurity policy.

His remarks swerved from the threatening (“the United States will deploy every economic, diplomatic and, if necessary, every military tool at our disposal to deter Pyongyang and protect our allies”) to the conciliatory, recognizing that China’s rise has taken 500 million people out of poverty and hoping for a peaceful relationship.

His talk echoed both the thundering and more reassuring cool breezes coming from on high in the Donald Trump administration.

Arnold Zeitlin

Arnold Zeitlin

His secretary of state thundered about the South China Sea that “we’re going to have to send China clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

But in Beijing, Rex Tillerson called for China and the United States to work together on North Korea issues, then cooled and in public at least meekly accepted the major power formula of “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation” a tender trap that the Chinese had tried
unsuccessfully for eight years to get the Obama administration to adopt.

As the consummate capitalist Donald goes into negotiations today in Mar-a-Lago with Communist party general secretary Xi Jinjing (also, incidentally, President of China), he says he is prepared to go it alone against North Korea (perhaps deploying every military tool at his disposal, no doubt scaring allies South Korea and Japan, the first victims of such a practice).

Truculent Trump has thundered that China is a money manipulator. He has dumped on China’s One-China policy toward Taiwan and insinuated that China’s trade practices amount to the rape of American businesses.

But to make a telephone call to Xi, the Donald cooled and meekly reaffirmed his support of America’s One-China policy, which is after all, only U.S. recognition that both sides of the Taiwan strait agree there is but one China.

So far, other than going it alone, Trump’s North Korean policy is a cry for help from the Chinese. They, unenchanted with the regime of Kim Jong-un, seem content to keep North Korea as a buffer against U.S. influence in the south and to avoid a flow of refugees from the north in the event of harsh action against its regime.

Trump and, for that matter, the previous Obama administration, have never figured out the price that must be paid for effective Chinese cooperation against North Korea.

The Chinese have been extraordinarily cunning in their reaction to Trump. They have not responded angrily to his taunts. Instead, they have approved the Trump organization’s case for the right to trademarks in China. Their tough ambassador in Washington, Cui Tiankai, has discovered the way to Trump’s heart is through his son-in-law, Jared-of-all trades Kushner. Kushner was the target of a $4 billion offer from China’s Anbang Insurance group to bail out his real estate company from its heavily mortgaged ownership of 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, a sweetheart deal that withered under the glare of publicity.

If Xi is as wise as his public relations minions insist, he will greet Trump today with (1) congratulations for his “landslide” election victory; (2) praise his accomplishments after 77 (the Chinese word for the number also serving as a pun for ‘penis’) days in office;(3) admire the lavishness of Mar-a-Lago and compare it to the splendor of the great hall of the people in Beijing; (4) note their mutual friend, Vladimir Putin; (5) agree that “fake news” dogs China, too; and, finally, (6) reveal approvingly how Ivana, or “yi wan ka” has become the idol of young professionals in China.

Trump will then swoon into China’s embrace, the start of a big romance.

And as far as the rest of us is concerned . . .

Arnold Zeitlin, a Ghana One Volunteer (1961-63), wrote the first book by an RPCV about his tour, To the Peace Corps with Love (1965). He has had a long news reporting career and is now a Visiting Professor at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhow, China.

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