Billionaire Donald Trump came to the White House as a legendary business negotiator. That includes major experience in hiring thousands of American workers and meeting multi-million dollar payrolls.
So it is not surprising that his unpredictable style is threatening to keep China off balance. Not enough is said about the man’s many talents that have nothing to do with successful fundraising, appeasing lobbyists or running for elected office. He is one politician who has never been on the government payroll but made a fortune in the private sector.
Now he has China guessing what will be his intentions. So far the communists have been a major disappointment in curtailing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, yet Trump tweeted, “So much for China working with us, but we had to give it a try!”
The president is clearly sending a mixed message to the clever Chinese. In Germany he said, “Never give up!” What must be going through the head of Chinese President Xi Jinping? Trump the master negotiator is thoroughly unpredictable, unlike the previous administration.
Would it be safe to assume the Chinese government is perplexed by this man? David Pressman, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for political affairs, says “I think President Trump’s tweets on this issue lend more confusion than they do clarity with regards to our expectations of China.”
Is that a bad thing?
Clearly the Chinese are thinking of their national interests. They are well aware that North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities took on a new urgency when Pyongyang last week successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time.
China feels their best negotiating chip is being Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner and closest ally. They control the diplomatic strings of the man-child lunatic who runs the North Korean dictatorship. They fear too much control could topple that puppet government and lose their power over Northeast Asia.
Meanwhile, Trump has met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over dinner to discuss North Korea. Trump, ever the shrewd businessman/negotiator, did not invite Xi. Was there a message in that?
Yes there is a big message.
Now is the time for the international community to unite and send a strong message to the Chinese who have unique leverage over North Korea. If they want to participate as a world power, they must be more responsible.
Trump has already tried the salesman approach. He has wined and dined the Chinese president at his resort in Florida. He has publicly complimented the man. That didn’t seem to budge Xi, so he upped the ante by suggesting the possibility of tougher trade sanctions.
Yet Pyongyang has continued its missile tests. It is clear the Chinese want concessions from Trump. They want legitimacy for their reckless behavior in the South China Sea. They, along with the Russians, want an end to U.S.-South Korea military exercises in exchange for North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile programs.
China is worried deeply about the U.S. bringing naval, ground and air capabilities to their door step. They want the United States and South Korea to dial back military exercises in exchange for their help.
What will the complicated Donald Trump do?
Obviously military options are his last choice with millions of lives at risk. But this is Donald Trump and, like him or not, he is not one to show his cards or become predictable for predictability’s sake. Isn’t that what we want a president to be? His cards are based on what is best for the American people first and the rest of the world to fall in line.
That is what a leader is about.