BEIJING – Chinese state media have warned the U.S. president-elect against isolationism and interventionism, calling instead for the United States to actively work with China to maintain the international status quo.
Donald Trump threatened to tear up trade deals and pursue a more unilateral foreign policy under his “America First” principle during a tempestuous campaign.
But China and other foreign governments are uncertain how much of Trump’s rhetoric will be translated into policy because he has at times made contradictory statements and provided few details of how he would deal with the world.
Trump often targeted China in the campaign, blaming Beijing for U.S. job losses and vowing to impose 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports. The Republican also promised to call China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.
U.S. isolationist policies had “accelerated the country’s economic crisis” during the Great Depression, warned a commentary by China’s official Xinhua News Agency, though it added that “election talk is just election talk.”
The commentary also cautioned against any tilt toward intervention.
The Chinese media in the past have criticized the United States and other Western powers for intervening in Afghanistan and Iraq and meddling in international hot spots such as Ukraine.
“History has proven that U.S. overseas military interventionism causes them to pay disastrous political and economic costs,” the commentary said.
Hillary Clinton was widely seen in China as the more hawkish of the two candidates, while some Chinese commentators saw Trump as a potential pragmatist on foreign policy.
But Beijing fears the unpredictability of a Trump presidency as it seeks to maintain an equilibrium in Chinese-U.S. relations while dealing with the daunting tasks of a reform agenda to combat a slowing economy at home.
A second Xinhua commentary published Thursday morning said the new U.S. president and China should “jointly build a new model of major power relations.” That echoes the position of President Xi Jinping that says global powers should work to accommodate, not contain, a rising China in the international system.
Trump’s victory was watched closely on the Chinese internet with the tag “Trump has won” becoming the most-searched term on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblog service, on Wednesday afternoon, well before the race was conceded.
Some of the posts agreed that Trump might be just the change agent the United States needs now.
“The U.S. has chosen indeterminacy in order to create change,” according to a post by Tsinghua University professor Sun Liping on Thursday that has been shared over 1,000 times. “When the usual, determined method has already been unable to solve the problems, then you need the shock of heresy instead.”
Chinese state media had previously said the U.S. election process reflects a troubled political system, and showed an increasingly divided, disillusioned and indignant U.S. citizenry.
“This election has also made clear that the U.S. political system is already caught in a predicament,” a third Xinhua commentary said. “As for when it will exit this predicament, the answer is still unknown.”
The Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling party’s People’s Daily newspaper, said Trump’s victory had “dealt a heavy blow to the heart of U.S. politics,” but that he will be unable to make many changes in U.S. foreign policy.
“In an elite-controlled U.S., most of those holding power don’t support Trump. And U.S. allies across the world will pressure Washington to restrain Trump from isolationism,” it said.
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