The American president will be welcomed in Beijing on Nov. 8, exactly one year since his election. Chinese power has something to celebrate, according to our chronicler, Frédéric Koller.*
Next Wednesday, on Nov. 8, in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in the middle of the Chinese capitol, Donald Trump will celebrate the first anniversary of his improbable election. The Chinese ambassador to the United States has promised that Trump will be entitled to a warm welcome, to a “State visit-plus” — a military honor guard, interviews with Xi Jinping, a banquet with new members of the Standing Committee of the Central Political Bureau (freshly selected from within the Communist Party), and “special arrangements.” Xi Jinping is ready to offer a great deal to this timely guest. It is a fair trade – Trump has made the task easy for him.
To Xi Jinping’s Credit
For the past year, in fact, if everything has been going well for Chinese leadership, it is due in part to the American president. Far from executing his threats of trade retaliation against the “Chinese thieves of American jobs," one of his election campaign’s recurring themes, Trump has instead handed off – whether voluntarily or not remains to be seen – the initiative to Beijing in nearly every domain.**
As for trade? By cancelling a free trade agreement with East Asia, the White House renewed energy to Beijing’s Silk Road initiative, which, until then, was dying. As for diplomacy? By renouncing the Paris climate accord, Trump offered China the primary role (alongside France) in resolving a crucial issue of the 21st century. As for multilateral strategy? By discrediting the United Nations and threatening its finances, the American president is allowing China to advance its agenda and to influence future world governance without having to spend much. There are certainly more examples illustrating the hara-kiri of American power.
At the end of his tour of Asia, Trump will appear to be the leader of a marginalized power.
It is to Xi Jinping’s credit that he has immediately adapted to this new order, and has filled the void that has been created. This was not self-evident. The Communist Party of China’s machinery is historically ill at ease with stepping on the gas. In a matter of weeks, the party’s secretary-general seized the unique opportunity that appeared. He articulated his new world vision in speeches at Davos and Geneva last January, saying that China is ready to assume its responsibilities, to take leadership. Ten months later, his idea for a “new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics” has been enshrined in the party. He was preparing, truly, for decades.
The Marginalization of Donald Trump
During his 3-day trip to China, Trump will persuade himself that he is a great president, and that America is stronger than ever. His Chinese host will make sure of it. Trump will issue several reproaches, particularly toward North Korea. His Chinese host will give the impression of being moved. As for the rest, his pathological narcissism, flattered by the splendor of his welcome, will blind him to the true intentions of the Communist Party. Being so very poorly prepared for diplomatic and trade strategy – as the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China has publicly worried – Trump will not get the Chinese leadership to do anything substantial with regard to opening their market, as they want total control from now on.
During the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, a poster showed an ancient Greek athlete passing the baton to a Chinese runner from the Han dynasty. The implicit message was that China was taking the reins from the West. This is what the 45th president of the United States is about to do with the fifth secretary-general of the CPC. At the end of his tour of Asia, Trump will appear to be the leader of a marginalized power. At least, that is how Chinese propaganda will exploit it. It won’t be wrong.
*Editor’s note: This commentary was written prior to President Donald Trump’s visit to China. The editors feel that its perspective remains relevant.
**Editor's note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.