DALIAN, Liaoning: Dr Wang Huiyao, an adviser to the Chinese government, said US President Donald Trump's manner of dealing with China has shifted from being extreme to being more realistic in recent times.
"I am glad to see he has softened his position at G20 … He is more pragmatic now," said Wang in an exclusive interview with CNA. Wang was appointed counsellor to the Chinese Cabinet in 2015 by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
US-China relations took a deep dive in May when President Trump suddenly backed off from a trade deal, even though Trump’s own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that an agreement was already 90 per cent there.
Then a few weeks later in Osaka at the G20 meeting of major countries, Trump did an about-face saying that he was willing for the US team to go back to the negotiation table.
But Wang also took a swipe at the US President’s negotiation tactics saying: “He’s probably playing too much of ... the ‘Art of the Deal’ into the state relations and has played this pressure to an extreme tactic.”
Back in the 1980’s Tony Schwartz, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote the now-famous book called The Art of the Deal based on closely shadowing Donald Trump to all his meetings for 18 months.
The book topped the New York Times bestseller list for 48 weeks, entrenched Trump’s reputation as a savvy businessman and made him a household name in the US. But Schwartz has been scathing about Trump’s business abilities saying: "As a deal-maker, he is really one of the worst I’ve ever come across."
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Wang, who is also president of an influential Beijing-based think tank, the Centre for China and Globalisation, was similarly sceptical - arguing that the aggressive deal-making of the business world cannot be transferred to how countries deal with each other.
“After several rounds, President Trump realised that both countries need to (be) respectful ... and really we’re so linked together that we cannot be separated,” Wang observed.
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The 61-year-old adviser to the Chinese Cabinet also tried to strike a conciliatory note saying that what was needed was stronger ties between US and Chinese companies as well as people-to-people exchanges.
“I’m glad to see that President Trump mentions they welcome Chinese students now. Not every student is a spy,” he said. According to the New York-based Institute of International Education, about 360,000 Chinese students enrolled in US colleges last year.
However, Wang conceded that relations between the two superpowers may have taken an irreparable turn for the worse in the longer term.
He said that China and US could have a “healthy rivalry” which would benefit both countries and the world. But he fears that in the three years of the Trump presidency, US perceptions of China have moved towards the “negative” and this will continue no matter whether a Democrat or Republican wins in the next US presidential election.
Watch the full interview with Dr Wang Huiyao on In Conversation on Friday (Jul 19) at 9pm (SIN/HK) on CNA.