President Trump goes to Beijing


As we begin to get a view of the 19th Party Congress, we can see a system put in place to carry China through the next period of transition to 2050. That is unique in the history of nations to envision and plan so far ahead. The history of the last 38 years suggests the approach is probably sound and likely to succeed. And compared to 1978, so much of the thinking for the lead up to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is laid out much more clearly, and in detail. China has some very big challenges ahead but they have a context to anticipate and prepare for them.


Against this background President Trump arrives in Beijing to try and manage that key relationship. One might sense that, after nearly one year, he is ready to focus on solutions instead of challenging China. China is responding to American power. China has its own red lines but will continue to seek a new major power relationship.


As Kevin Rudd pointed out , President Trump has two boxes to address.


The first is trade and commerce. Here he has to assess what China is offering to the USA in terms of a medium set of understandings covering regional and global trade and investment, and what access to the Chinese market and BRI is being proposed to the USA by China.


I would be surprised if the Chinese were not ready to excite the business delegations of the USA with significant opportunities, albeit they will not include the Party and Government of China backing off from their leadership role in these two areas – China and BRI. Combine that with potential Chinese assistance to rebuilding American infrastructure and you have a deal in the making. If the second box can be addressed.


The second is the geopolitical relationship. Here we have moved from President Trump calling China over North Korea, to seeking their help in managing the Korean peninsula. In the last week or so we have seen President Xi take steps to calm and normalise the relationship with South Korea and exchange messages with Kim in North Korea. Is the scene being set for a major Chinese move to be suggested by Xi to Trump over the Korean Peninsula? We shall see.


If that problem was to be moving towards an outcome then it would be much easier for President Xi and President Trump to contemplate regional and global understandings. In case anyone thinks that China might be planning some kind of duopoly, I would not imagine that is the route. The 19th Party Congress might well lay the ground for a Foreign Affairs Vice Premier – this has been a gap for 20 years – but it will be around the themes of the Davos speech, about nations working together for peace and sustainable development to end world poverty, and share the benefits more widely.


This approach by China provides great opportunities for American companies, who, as Professor Peter Nolan points out, hold the bulk of the leadership in global commercial sectors. An outbreak of world growth is of enormous value to the economic challenges  which worries G7 leaders. It is a period of growth that is needed to calm the poor and middle classes of the USA and Europe. It is their plight that stirs the social unbalance expressed through populism, and they have suffered from the crass excesses of financial capitalism and mismanaged globalisation. Both those economic forces are here to stay but they need feeding grounds, and they are on offer in exchange for an acceptance of reasonable governance.


China is offering both the plans, the stimulus and the vision for this. It provides the context for power. How to manage this geopolitical balance, for this new economic era, is probably well considered in Beijing, and we shall wait to see the emergence of a new global governance debate .


This visit of President Trump is probably the most important meeting of the Chinese and American Presidents ever. If they begin to see eye to eye on Korea the rest is already in place to be built upon.


I wish I was a fly on the wall







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