LONDON – Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the US presidential election has shaken the world. From Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s conspicuous silence to French President Francois Hollande’s statement that it opens up a “period of uncertainty” to the Kremlin’s barely concealed giddiness, Trump has not been received internationally like past US presidents. But one country has remained largely unmoved: China.
Trump’s stance on China is well known: he has blamed the country for everything from hacks on his opponent (thought by the US government to be the work of Russia) to climate change (which he has called a hoax cooked up by China to undermine US competitiveness). And he has promised to impose a 45% tariff on Chinese goods.
Yet prudence flows through China’s Confucian veins. Rather than jumping to conclusions about future US policies, much less taking premature action, China’s leaders have remained neutral in their response to Trump’s victory. They seem confident that, though the bilateral relationship will change somewhat, it will not be fundamentally transformed. It will still be neither very good nor very bad.
It helps that Trump has all but ceased China-bashing since the election. Instead, he posted on Twitter a video of his granddaughter reciting a poem in Mandarin – an instant hit in China. Whether intended explicitly as a message to China or not, the move highlighted the possibility of a gulf between Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his actual positions and plans.