Can Trump contain China with Russia’s help?

By nominating China critics and Russia friends, US President-elect Donald Trump has made clear that he intends to change the fundamental rules of US foreign and trade policies, expert Thomas Jäger tells DW.

Symbolbild US-Wahl - Donald Trump & Wladimir Putin (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Thew & A. Druzhinin/Ria Novosti/Kremlin Pool)

DW: By picking hawkish China critic Peter Navarro to lead the newly established White House National Trade Council, what is Donald Trump trying to achieve?

Thomas Jäger: Navarro’s nomination proves that Trump wants to reshape and redesign policies rather than adapting to the changing situations. The incoming US administration says it wants to take a new path in foreign policy. The president-elect’s team won’t be as cautious in its business with China as the Obama administration. Trump believes that the US governments have emboldened Beijing, which now dominates international trade policies.

Will Trump start a trade war with China?

What we can say for sure is the US won’t remain passive anymore. The US under Trump will redefine its relationship with Russia and try to contain China with Moscow’s help. Trump will also strengthen ties with China’s neighboring countries in the Pacific. This would be an enormous economic and political containment of China.

Prof. Thomas Jäger Internationale Politik Universität Köln (privat)Thomas Jäger: If Trump succeeds in reshaping US relations with Russia, China will come under pressure

Are you saying that rapprochement with Russia and aggression toward China is part of the same US foreign policy?

I think so. If Trump succeeds in reshaping US relations with Russia, China will come under pressure. Then Beijing is likely to negotiate and could give up its claims on the South China Sea or offer trade concessions. We should keep in mind that an aggressive economic policy played a big role in the US’ “victory” over the Soviet Union.

Are we in for a complete paradigm shift?

It looks possible. Maybe, it won’t come to this. It also depends on how Moscow and Beijing react to Trump’s policies. But it is pretty obvious that Trump and his team are pursuing a policy of being tough with China and easy with Russia at this point.

Many people still underestimate Trump’s leadership qualities. Is it possible that he actually has a master plan?

Trump is evolving. In the recent weeks, he has consulted many politicians and consulting firms. They certainly have influenced him to some extent. They have introduced him to a world that he didn’t know previously. I think he will be able to use this knowledge and his own ideas to his benefit.

Trump has a completely different way of thinking than President Barack Obama. Obama thoroughly examines issues and then develop a strategy. Trump has a different mindset; he analyzes quarterly reports. I am sure the US foreign and trade policies will also be evaluated on a quarterly basis now.

Thomas Jäger has been teaching international and foreign politics at the University of Cologne since 1999. His main research areas are international relations and the foreign policies of Germany and the United States.

The interview was conducted by Thomas Kohlmann.

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