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President Obama, Trump or Huntsman next year?

15:56, March 17, 2011

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John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min 2011 All Rights Reserved

What would a Donald Trump or Jon Huntsman Jr. U.S. presidential administration mean for the China-US economic relationship? Trump, the legendary television star, real estate and casino titan, and Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to China, are preparing to run. Both could be formidable challengers and understand how Obama became president using the Internet.

Unlike President Obama, Trump and Huntsman are billionaires that grew up in their self-made fathers' business empires. Trump has focused on competing and winning in countless deals, and his businesses are vastly larger than his father's. He buys construction material from China and also builds and sells expensive real estate outside of China to wealthy Chinese and others. His China policies are much less subtle and nuanced than those of President Obama and Ambassador Huntsman.

The global chemical corporation Huntsman's father built has 29 facilities in China.

Jon Huntsman Jr. has focused on building a combination of business, international trade, diplomatic and elected political experience. He has been a White House staff assistant, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Ambassador to Singapore and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. He co-chaired John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and was elected Utah governor with 57 percent and reelected with 77.7 percent of the vote.

Trump has never held elected public office. That may not be a disadvantage given voters' anger at politicians in the U.S. economic and unemployment crises. There is no one in U.S. politics today quite like "the Donald." He is a force of nature with ferocious negotiating skills sharpened in forty years of high stakes business battles. In normal times, he would likely be as unelectable as Ross Perot was in the 90s. These are not normal times and Trump exudes confidence that he can fix the US by fully and aggressively using its wounded but dominant economic and military might.

Can either do a better job than President Obama in solving America's crises? In Trump's view, President Obama, is "in over his head." Trump would appoint tough, successful business leaders that he describes as "killers" to key government positions because typical U.S. politicians and diplomats "simply can't handle the Chinese."

Trump brands China and OPEC nations as "enemies" of the United States. He is passionate about America's loss of respect and what needs to be done to fully assert America's global dominance. A recent US poll found that 61 percent of Americans feel that China is dominant now. The American people are angry and looking for quick solutions to their serious personal problems as well as the United States' current economic problems and long-term decline. Trump may be more electable next year than President Obama or Huntsman because he is more aggressive toward China.

Huntsman like Obama operates within the conventional U.S. foreign policy approach to China. They view it as a "mature relationship" in which the United States must confront and successfully collaborate with China simultaneously. U.S. policies seek to undermine China's core interests while seeking China's support in protecting the core interests of the United States. That approach is arguably not solving the unsustainable imbalances in the relationship of the world's two largest economies.

Huntsman's way of explaining to angry, desperate Americans how the United States needs to position itself in competing with and collaborating with China may not be as appealing as Trump's to U.S. voters. As a candidate and president, Huntsman can form his own policies. Will he continue, toughen or depart from the conventional U.S. policy approach?

A Trump administration would try to quickly revolutionize the U.S.-China economic relationship. Trump states that he would successfully force an immediate revaluation of China's currency while also balancing U.S.-China trade. He will give China an ultimatum demanding quicker, major revaluation of the yuan or impose a 25 percent tariff on all Chinese imports into the United States. Coming from Trump, as president, that often made threat would be credible and real. However, a sudden large appreciation in the valuation of the yuan in relation to the U.S. dollar or such a massive tariff would each be very damaging to China.

Is a showdown or the conventional approach best in protecting the economic interests of Americans? The United States and China urgently need to formulate a balanced new economic relationship because there is inevitable and catastrophic failure ahead for the United States, China and the global economies in failing to soon balance trade. A showdown entails catastrophic risks. A showdown implemented by Trump as president might just be able to successfully force such a deal before instability overtakes any opportunity for preventing the global economy's collapse.

In nation after nation, including the United States, economic crises are triggering social and political instability that is increasing daily at Internet speed with Twitter intelligence. Think of the consequences if China and the United States are incapable of balancing their trade and stabilizing the US and global economies.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min are the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010. They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for America-China Partnership in 2005. E-mail: [email protected]