Firestein Analyzes Impact of Trump Administration on U.S.-China Relations

Commentary | February 03, 2017

On January 11, 2017, Perot Fellow and Senior Vice President of Strategic Trust-Building and Track 2 Diplomacy David J. Firestein joined the World Affairs Forum in Stamford, Connecticut as part of the Ambassadors' Roundtable series.

Firestein examined the potential impact of the incoming Trump Administration on the U.S.-China relationship by looking at four clusters of issues: bilateral economic and trade issues; bilateral non-economic issues (such as Taiwan and human rights); regional security issues; and global issues. 

Firestein assessed that the Trump Administration’s most significant impact on U.S. policy toward China and on the relationship itself will be in the first area—but he also predicted that even so, the fundamentals of the bilateral trade and economic relationship will likely remain unchanged. Firestein also predicted relatively little major change in the three other issue clusters, which, with the exception of the South China Sea dispute, seem to be framed by the current Administration as second-tier issues.

Firestein concluded his talk by saying he was more “cautiously pessimistic” (that is, somewhat more optimistic) about the prospects for the U.S.-China relationship than most other observers, some of whom have expressed concern about greatly increased U.S.-China tensions and even possible armed conflict between the two nations; he expressed the view that, when the transitional dust settles and rhetoric becomes less important than actual actions, the Trump Administration may end up presiding over a relatively positive period in the relationship.