China Mutes Nuclear Rhetoric as War of Words with Trump Switches to Trade

2017-01-26
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File photo of China's new Dongfeng-41 missile, which state media briefly flaunted in response to tough talk by U.S. President Donald Trump.
File photo of China's new Dongfeng-41 missile, which state media briefly flaunted in response to tough talk by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Public domain.

An editorial lauding China's latest addition to its nuclear arsenal has apparently been deleted from state-run news sites after it said the new Dongfeng-41 missile would win the country "more respect" amid a war of words with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.

"Before Trump took power, his team showed a tough stance toward China, and in turn, Beijing will ready itself for pressures imposed by the
new U.S. government," the Global Times, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said.

"Nuclear deterrence is the foundation of China's national security, which must be consolidated with the rising strategic risks," said the article, a cached copy of which was still available on Google on Thursday.

The paper lauded the new missile as a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 14,000 kilometers and able to detonate a payload of 10-12 nuclear warheads anywhere in the world.

"But most military experts believe that China has finished the research and production of the Dongfeng-41 and the conditions for deployment are optimal," it said, citing military experts.

The Jan. 23 editorial was apparently published in response to Trump's call for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

"Trump has called for a nuclear arms build-up many times," it said. "A military clash with the U.S. is the last thing China wants, but ... the U.S. has not paid enough respect to China's military."

'Flippant' Trump

It said Trump and his officials had shown a "flippant" attitude towards Chinese interests.

Last week, the paper warned of "major war" after comments made by secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who said the U.S. could move to block Chinese access to artificial islands it made in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

But Jason Z. Yin, a professor of strategy management and international business at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, said Trump's rhetoric is born of a tough-talking, deal-making business background.

"You have to remember that Trump and [designated secretary of state] Rex Tillerson come from a corporate background, and they're used to doing everything they can to buy low and sell high," Yin said. "Their tough talk is akin to bargaining, and shouldn't be taken literally."

"The Global Times editorial, however, tried to fight fire with fire, but they misunderstood the haggling side of business, and they made a wrong call," he said.

The apparent deletion of the editorial suggests that someone powerful in Beijing agrees with him.

Yin said most of Trump's team can be expected to act in the interests of business, rather than global diplomacy.

Deeds over words

Ran Bogong, former politics professor at Toledo University, agreed.

"We should judge them by their deeds rather than their words," Ran said. "The most important thing is what will Trump actually do."

"I believe there will be some changes in the U.S.-China relationship, but I don't think there will be war, at least not in the short term," he said.

Meanwhile, Claude Barfield, an expert on international trade at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a former U.S. think-tank adviser to the US Trade Representative's Office, said in a recent report that China's tight controls over online content have negatively affected overseas suppliers.

Eight of the world's top 25 traffic sites are banned in China, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Barfield wrote, saying the complex system of blocks, filters and human censorship known as the Great Firewall breaks international trade rules on market access.

He said such practices could be seen as discriminatory protectionism under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Sang Young, information security expert at the Hong Kong Internet Society, said the Great Firewall definitely inconveniences foreign businesses operating in China.

"The 'discrimination' refers to not allowing people to see overseas content, but allowing people to access content provided by China," Yeung told RFA.

"The failure to allow suppliers to provide services to the Chinese mainland would seem to contravene WTO rules and the concept of free trade," he said.

China's 730 million netizens must currently use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access Facebook, Twitter and most foreign news sites, according to rights activist Jia Pin.

"You see, activists here in China often need to access these foreign sites; any political content is generally prohibited browsing, which means that you must use a VPN to get 'over the Wall'," Jia.

But China has said that it will crack down in 2017 on the use of VPNs to get around the Great Firewall with new rules requiring service providers to obtain government approval before they can operate.

Jia said such a comprehensive obstacle to the flow of information in China would be a "major hindrance" to rights activists there.

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Goh Fung for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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Anonymous Reader

After only one week in the White House, Trump has already blundered severely in several foreign policy areas due to following extremely misguided advice from his white supremacist adviser and former Goldman Sachs corporate raider Steve Bannon. Chinese government can simply maintain a low profile and watch Trump continue to trash the credibility and rationality of US foreign policy, then when the time is ripe take advantage of US government floundering under Trump's incoherent misrule. Trump's and Tillerson's bark will be worse than their bite partly because Trump's son-in-law Kushner and Trump's old mercenary crony from Blackwater Eric Prince (also Betsy Devos's brother) have too many financial interests in Hong Kong and China to condone a militaristic policy towards China by Trump.

Jan 29, 2017 12:54 PM

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