China's president has offered the U.S. president-elect congratulations on his recent win at the polls in their first telephone conversation.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said Xi Jinping and Donald Trump agreed Monday to meet "at an early date" to discuss the relationship between the two countries.
A statement from Trump's office in New York said "During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward."
Xi told Trump, according to CCTV, that "The facts prove that cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the United States."
“The two sides must strengthen coordination, promote the two countries' economic development and global economic growth, expand all areas of exchange and cooperation, ensure the two countries' people obtain more tangible benefits, and push for better development going forward in China-U.S. relations,” CCTV reported.
During the recent U.S. presidential campaign, Trump was highly critical of China's trade practices and currency manipulations. He said China viewed the U.S. as a pushover.
But much less is known about how he might seek to address worsening human rights conditions, China’s trade practices, and geopolitical issues in the world’s second largest economy.
Peter Navarro, said to be one of Trump’s top China advisors during the campaign, wrote an article on the website Foreign Policy hinting the relationship between the two countries might change with the new administration.
He said under President Barack Obama the refocus on Asia has been “a failure.”
The “weak pivot follow-through has invited the Chinese aggression in the East and South China Seas and a Trump administration would address these issues by pursuing a “strategy of peace through strength.”
Some experts predict Trump will make a few strident anti-Beijing military moves in the area to prove a point and then back off to engage the Chinese economically.
“He has to flex American muscle,” said Eduardo Araral, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school. “He has to tell his domestic constituency he has won back the Philippines that was lost to China. So he needs to show his constituency that he has won where Obama has failed.”
But Trump has yet to officially define a position on the South China Sea disputes. China has separate maritime sovereignty disputes with Philippines and Japan. The country also accuses the United States of trying to contain its expansion.
Economically, during his campaign, Trump targeted Beijing’s trade practices, threatening to slap 45-percent tariffs on Chinese imports, a move experts say would impact first China, ripple across the world and then rebound on the United States.
The 45 percent tax would have Chinese exports to the world’s largest economy decrease by 87 percent or $420 billion, according to Daiwa Capital Markets analyst Kevin Lai. A smaller rate, 15 percent or so, Lai said would see a fall in exports by 31 percent and eventually cost China 1.75 percent of its GDP.
“I don’t think it is feasible as a matter of politics, and I don’t think it is feasible as a matter of legal authority, Christopher Balding of Perkins University Business School told AFP. “Even if it seems that with Trump there is nothing you can’t rule out,” he added.
Meanwhile, right activists and regional political analysts are wondering whether traditional American support for rights could soften at a time when they say the Chinese public needs an advocate more than ever.
“It seems that these attitudes probably [could] spill over to a generally hostile attitude toward human rights in other countries as well,” says Maya Wang, a China researcher with Human Rights Watch based in Hong Kong. “It is worrying, given that the U.S. government has been largely a consistent supporter of pressing human rights in China and we fear we might lose an important ally.”
Hu Jia, a prominent activist, was sentenced to jail for more than three years in 2008 and released before Xi came to power. He told VOA that for many in China, Trump is an unknown quantity.
“His remarks about foreign policy, religion and rights on the campaign trail and all the other comments he’s made don’t instill us with confidence,” Hu Jia says.