Trump’s unilateralism in East Asia increasingly benefits China.
On his way home from the Singapore summit, US President Donald Trump announced in an interview for Fox News that he would be taking strong action on trade, saying that China was likely to be “a little bit upset“. And indeed, three days later his administration slapped Chinese goods with a 25-percent tariff, provoking a sharp reaction from Beijing.
That was despite China’s support and assistance with the North Korea issue in the lead-up to the Singapore summit. For Trump, trade disputes, multilateral engagement, and the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula appear to be distinct, unrelated issues. In his unilateral world, there is little connection between geoeconomics and geopolitics.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has adopted a completely different approach to global politics and economy, which seems to be paying off with every unilateral action Trump takes on the international arena. This seems to be the case with the US engagement of North Korea as well.