CHINA: Experts split over impact on bilateral ties

Despite his China-bashing rhetoric, Mr Donald Trump has many fans among Chinese netizens.

His entrepreneurial prowess aside, the presumptive Republican nominee's political incorrectness holds appeal in a society where few dare to step out of line.

A Global Times poll of 3,300 people in late March found 54 per cent support for Mr Trump, who also benefited from Chinese wariness of Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton, who adopted a tough stance on issues such as cybersecurity and human rights when she was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.

But Chinese foreign policy experts are split over the impact the two have on bilateral ties.

Renmin University analyst Shi Yinhong said economic ties could suffer under a Trump presidency. He had pledged to impose a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports.

"We could see a significant negative impact at least for the first two years," he told The Sunday Times.

Most analysts expect Mr Trump, whose China-bashing is related to trade, to be more flexible on bilateral issues. It will also be to China's benefit if the new leader focuses on the US economy rather than on maintaining US influence overseas.

As for a Clinton presidency, China remains cautious as she was instrumental in implementing the US' pivot to Asia, which is seen as an attempt to contain China's rise.

Yet, a Democratic win means the US' stance towards China will be more predictable due to continuity of policies and personnel in the White House, analysts told Global Times in a recent interview.

"China is more familiar with Clinton. As for who (exactly) Trump is, no one knows," said Professor Shi.

Chong Koh Ping

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'CHINA: Experts split over impact on bilateral ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe