Donald Trump is unlikely to abandon the constructive policies advocated by Barack Obama when it comes to building trade ties with China. The Trump administration will be met with trouble if it continues to be hostile to China, which has many tools to fight back in a trade war.
Although Trump has a team including many hawks critical of China, he still believes in pragmatism, which follows the principle that power determines international relations. Therefore, after taking office as president, Trump needs to be cautious about what he says, and will seek a middle way in dealing with China.
Trade is an important card that Trump may play to contain China, but he has to concentrate on the domestic affairs to make good on the promises he made during the presidential campaign, especially in the face of public skepticism over his governing caliber.
One of Trump's major tasks is revitalizing the American economy, which will be badly affected by a possible trade war with China, the biggest trade partner of the US. Trump may put pressure on China on the excuse of trade deficit, the protection of intellectual rights and market access, but he cannot afford to allow these to cause a trade war with China.
Specifically speaking, the Trump administration may accuse China of dumping its steel, which would lead to the US imposing 35-40 percent duties on Chinese goods. But hefty tariffs on all Chinese goods will hurt the economic interest of the US in turn.
During his presidential campaign, Trump labeled China as a currency manipulator and threatened retaliations. At present, the president-elect has softened its stance by saying that he will make reprisals only if China continues to meddle in the yuan's exchange rate. It is just a tactic that outspoken Trump adopted to win the presidential election.
It is predicted that the US may press China to open the market access and fulfill its commitment to protecting the intellectual rights by making the use of the World Trade Organization rules. The two sides will finally return to the table for a win-win agreement.
Yuan Zheng is a researcher at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Opinions expressed in the article don't represent those of the Sino-US.com.)