Panic in Beijing: Caught off guard by Trump trade tactics, CCP courts Pentagon

by WorldTribune Staff, October 18, 2018

As its relationship with other U.S. agencies sours amid President Donald Trump’s trade and twitter offensive, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has worked to maintain close ties to the Pentagon, U.S. defense officials said.

Beijing has stepped up contacts with the Pentagon in recent weeks as Defense Minister Wei Fenghe prepares to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Washington before the end of the year.

Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping with U.S. President Donald Trump. / Getty Images

“The Chinese are definitely eager to stay connected to the department,” a senior official said, according to Breitbart News.

Supreme leader Xi Jinping “has not reacted tactically or strategically,” to Trump’s moves, said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, contributing editor and senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation.

Xi’s response has raised doubts among some factions in the CCP that he “does not have what it takes to parry,” Lam said. “It’s the most serious crisis faced by Xi Jinping in last six years.”

Related: Patrols in S. China Sea alarm Beijing; U.S. charges ‘interference’ in elections, October 2, 2018

Recent tense encounters between the U.S. and Chinese navies in the South China Sea fall within the realm of what the defense relationship has weathered in the past, the officials say.

What the CCP is not used to, however, is Trump’s pressure campaign against China on a number of fronts, including trade and intellectual property theft.

“China is sputtering. They’ve never been treated this way. Every administration in the past has always treated them with kid gloves,” a senior U.S. official told Breitbart News.

The Trump administration has also stepped up support for Taiwan, which China considers a rogue Chinese province and not a separate country.

Additionally, U.S. Vice President Michael Pence recently delivered a speech that was highly critical of Beijing which received very little pushback from the foreign policy community.

“It’s an unprecedented attack on the China model,” Lam said. “Trump is playing the Taiwan card, he’s playing tough in the South China Sea. It’s a multi-pronged, multi-faceted attack. The response from China has not been very successful. The [People’s Republic of China] doesn’t have as many cards to play.”

The U.S. and China had disputes during past administrations, but U.S. business interests were so dependent on a robust U.S.-China relationship that billions of U.S. dollars would continue to flow to China, analysts say.

Under Trump, however, things have changed.

“Now you’ve got a guy who says, ‘We’re getting screwed and I’m the guy to stop it,’ ” the senior U.S. official said.

“They have to maintain a level of growth to keep the population happy. They have a lot of people to keep afloat. Economics drives their military buildup and maintains domestic tranquility. If you can’t keep China pumping, things are going to get tough for you real quick.”

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