pei58_Thomas Peter-PoolGetty Images_xijinpingtrumpchinaguards Thomas Peter/Pool/Getty Images
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Trump’s Gift to China

If anyone was celebrating Donald Trump's decision to kill Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani, it was Chinese President Xi Jinping. After all, escalating tensions with Iran will distract the US from its competition with China, just as the 9/11 attacks did a generation ago.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – US President Donald Trump’s decision to order the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, has raised the specter, albeit still distant, of all-out war between the United States and the Islamic Republic. There is only one winner in this situation: China.

With Trump’s latest blunder, history may not be repeating itself, but it is certainly rhyming. When George W. Bush began his presidency in January 2001, his neoconservative advisers identified China as the biggest long-term threat to the US. So his administration labeled China a “strategic competitor” and set to work on containing America’s Asian rival.

In April 2001 – the same month a US Navy spy plane accidentally collided with a Chinese fighter jet while on a routine surveillance mission over the South China Sea – the US announced the sale of a weapons package to Taiwan over Chinese protests. Bilateral relations plunged to their lowest point since the normalization of diplomatic ties in 1979.

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