President Donald Trump spent a lot of time during the campaign criticizing China, and promising to get tough on China if elected president. In just his first few weeks in office, however, Trump has proved to be a paper tiger with China, making himself look weak in the eyes of Chinese leaders, which, in turn, will embolden China’s own assertive behavior.
During the campaign, Trump consistently lashed out at China, making the case that the United States didn’t know how to deal with China. Bad trade deals were a prime focus for Trump, who said, “the money they’ve drained out of the United States has rebuilt China.” When it comes to the United States’ handling of North Korea and the South China Sea, Trump claimed that “China’s toying with us.”
But as president, it appears that Trump doesn’t know how to deal with China. During the transition period, Trump took a shot across China’s bow by questioning the One China policy—the premise that Taiwan is a part of China, which had undergirded U.S.-China relations since the 1970s—and by taking a call from Taiwan’s president. This was a heretical act from China’s perspective, one that could have sabotaged U.S.-China relations.This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.