Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President-elect Donald Trump spoke on the phone Monday. Xi pointed out during the phone conversation that “the facts prove that cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the US,” which was highlighted by headlines carried in many global media outlets. Xi also emphasized that there is an important opportunity and massive potential for China-US cooperation. According to Trump’s transition office, the president-elect and Xi “established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another,” and Trump stated that he believes the two leaders “will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward.”
This communication heralds an important step in the transition of Sino-US relations and is a good start for diplomatic contacts between the leaders of both sides. Based on media reports, the content of the phone call is diplomatically impeccable and has bolstered optimism over bilateral relations in the next four years.
This change in the US presidency is widely considered, especially among its allies, a signal that Washington’s foreign policy will become uncertain. Given that the make-up of Trump’s administration has not been established, Trump’s diplomatic policies have not yet been formed.
The outside world does not know much about Trump, other than he is a businessman and a presidential candidate, and most knowledge about him comes from mainstream US media. However, the election result showed that those reports and descriptions about him are to a large extent twisted. The outside world must escape traditional information channels to understand Trump as president.
Over the past eight years, US President Barack Obama is generally believed to have been a moderate president. But he has been profoundly affected by the US elites’ traditional political mindset. His understanding of the world is mainly based on a Cold War mentality. Therefore, he accepted former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic strategy – squeezing Russia’s strategic space while promoting the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, which is exemplified by a zero-sum mindset. All that has led to a number of contradictions in his foreign polices during the latter period of his presidency.
Trump is an inexperienced politician. His interests in governance are different from the previous president and his views on the world have not been kidnapped by Washington’s political elites. Coupled with the fact that he will incorporate business and grass-roots angles into the actual interests of the US, Trump is probably the very American leader who will make strides in reshaping major-power relations in a pragmatic manner.
The world has changed. The basic causes for the traditional political game among big powers either have disappeared or altered. For instance, military expansion, which used to be popular, is difficult to use today and war has become unacceptable to most countries. But in front of new forms of competition and threats, Washington, in the past eight years or longer, has been reluctant to advance with the times, and has been mired in outdated mentality and practices.
It seems that Trump is about to bring Americans’ attention back to economic development and social construction and make these fields the main emphasis of the work of the new government. By contrast, Obama claimed that the US must be the one to write the rules, but he lacked support from the US domestic economy as the whole world suffered from sluggish trade. All he could do was create turbulence in the global arena by using geopolitical tactics. If Trump wants to actually realize making the country great again, he has to focus on the economy, instead of making aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines as engines to drive the US economy.
Obama outlined his vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world in the early days of his presidency, but his idea has become little more than empty words as he failed to lead the US and West to get rid of their Cold War mentality. Trump’s experience and ideology match well with the new era. However, it is still uncertain how far he would go on the right path. Trump knows that he himself as well as the US are standing at a crossroads. It is hoped that he could bring real surprises