Wang Wen: How to measure Trump’s impact from Yiwu

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Wang Wen: How to measure Trump’s impact from Yiwu

2020-06-02

By Wang Wen    Source: Global Times    Published: 2020-6-1


When US President Donald Trump announced sanctions against Hong Kong and expelled some Chinese students last week, I was doing field research in Yiwu. Most of Trump's campaign souvenirs are made in this Eastern China city, which is also the world's biggest trading center of small commodities.


In 2016, Yiwu's businesspeople allegedly predicted the election of Trump based on the increase in the orders of flags, caps and T-shirts of Trump's campaign.


I don't have the number of orders for the 2020 elections. But I have heard that many companies in Yiwu have shifted to producing surgical masks for export - some are making a fortune from this.


Amid China-US trade frictions in 2019, imports and exports of Yiwu increased 15.9 percent bucking the trend. In fact, trade with the US increased 35.6 percent last year.


Spending time with Yiwu businesspeople, I can say that I am most impressed not only by their flexible and effective adjustment strategies against the backdrop of US containment of China, but also their disregard of Trump's ego.


Yiwu's southeastern area is erecting new communities and people are flocking there to buy houses. I asked a young man who bought two apartments in just one hour if he is afraid of house prices plummeting due to Trump's suppression of China. He replied, "Do you mean the US president who messes up every day? Ignore him."


This answer makes me think. "China" has become a daily term for Trump, but his real impact on the lives of 1.4 billion Chinese people is not as much as the media expects. The Chinese, especially the younger generation, are capable and wise enough to cope with challenges posed by Trump.


From this perspective, Trump is merely a paper tiger. At the current stage, China's development is facing multiple challenges, mainly from its own transition and structural adjustment. Trump messing up China-US relations has produced limited impact on China. In some cases it is even helping China.


He launched the trade war against China, yet China's trade volume and trade surplus with the US did not decline. China has accelerated its financial opening process. He suppresses Chinese students and Chinese scientists in the US, prompting many of them to return to China. He mobilized the whole of the US to crack down on Huawei, but in the end Huawei became more well-known. He dispels Chinese companies and China's overseas investment, effectively dissuading wealthy Chinese people to transfer their assets to the US. He announced sanctions against Hong Kong, which taught Hong Kong's elite a lesson - give up illusions on the US.


From the Trump administration's National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy to the United States Strategic Approach to the People's Republic of China released by the White House on May 20, it seems as the US is increasingly hostile toward China, it's obvious to people with a clear mind that the US is at its wit's end. The US can neither contain China's rise nor boost its own national interest by exploiting a China-US rivalry.


Trump has made almost no accomplishment on international issue in the past three years. The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal led US-Iran relations to hit rock bottom. Mutual trust has been completely lost in US-North Korea relations. And it's still a distant dream to pull US troops out from Syria or Afghanistan, and realize reconciliation with either of them. Even the G7 alliance that the US heavily depends on has been collapsing. In other words, Trump is dissatisfied with the house of globalization. He dismantled several beams of the house, but it's unclear whether he intends to build a new house or if he simply wants to demolish the old one.


With such catastrophes, I even have a little sympathy for Trump who complains every day about the "injustice" the US receives from the world. His targets include other countries, international organizations, the Democratic Party, US media outlets, and even Twitter.


Under his leadership, the US has looked like a "giant infant" in terms of diplomacy and the White House has appeared more absurd. Media exposed a video appearing to show world leaders (including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris John and French President Emmanuel Macron) joking about Trump at the NATO summit in London last year, making Trump looked like a lonely, poor old man without friends.


He reacted poorly to the COVID-19 epidemic, leading to a death toll of over 100,000, and the highest unemployment rate in a century. The anger of Americans has finally been ignited by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who suffocated under the knee of a white policeman in Minneapolis. Unrests have spread in over 30 cities and the epidemic is still raging on - the US has fallen into the worst situation since the end of the WWII.


The US used to be a great country and the Americans are kind and innocent. But under the leadership of current administration, does the US still have the chance to be great again?


The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His latest book is Great Power's Long March Road. wangwen2013@ruc.edu.cn