May 4, 2017

INDEED: Don’t Like Trump’s Bluster? Sometimes It Works.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump denounced Chinese trade policies, saying he would not allow Beijing “to rape our country” any longer. In early April, when President Trump met President Xi Jinping of China at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., he continued the tough talk. He and his aides told the Chinese delegation that the administration would impose restrictions on Chinese investments in the United States if Beijing did not lower its barriers to American investments in China.

It is too soon to tell whether the Chinese will change their policies. But there are signs that the president’s antagonistic approach has opened the door to strategic cooperation on one of the world’s biggest problems: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

China already has suspended coal imports from Pyongyang in compliance with United Nations sanctions, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that China would impose more sanctions if North Korea continues its nuclear testing program. China’s foreign ministry spokesman said last week, “I can say in terms of solving the North Korean crisis, China’s efforts can’t be overstated.”

There are also signs that Mr. Trump’s style is resonating with ordinary Chinese. Considering the harshness of his past statements about China, I was surprised by the number of people I met there who expressed respect for him. “He is a very successful businessman,” one said. “He is strong,” another said. One person noted, “I think in the past your country respected such people.”

Apparently, the Chinese never took Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric personally. They saw it as his starting point — a “negotiating position,” as Mr. Trump himself might say.

It’s no small deal that even the New York Times is catching on.

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