US arms for India on China’s Trump talk list

Source :Times Of India

US arms sales to India and China-India border disputes are among the top six “sensitivities” senior Chinese officials have listed for the new Donald Trump administration, Michael Pillsbury, senior adviser to the US president, said in a conversation with TOI here. The US-China relationship in the Trump era will be of critical interest to India, affecting its own grand strategy.

 Pillsbury, as a China expert and now an adviser to Trump, probably has the clearest view. “Six areas of outsized importance to President Xi Jinping and the ruling elite have been revealed,” Pillsbury said. The Chinese have never openly objected to India’s weapons purchases from the US or anyone. The fact that they would do so now is significant. “This and the South Korean missile shield are on their list,” he said.

 The others are ‘One China policy’ and Taiwan, again in the area of weapons sales; Dalai Lama and the Tibet government in exile — China has asked that Trump not meet Dalai Lama. China is also nervous about the THAAD (terminal high altitude area defence) missile interceptors and SPY radar systems that the US has agreed to position in South Korea. Pillsbury said they would not like the US to add to these, which could neutralise China’s ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capability that targets the US mainland. 

“Whether President Trump supports India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh and continues US arms sales to India already requested by PM Modi, now America’s largest customer of weapons, is another Chinese worry about the coming year,” Pillsbury said at the recent Raisina Dialogue. But China, Pillsbury said, would ideally like Trump to agree with its denial of the UNCLOS verdict on its South China Sea claims. 

The new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said in his Senate confirmation testimony that the US should even block China’s access to the artificial islands. Speaking exclusively to TOI, Pillsbury said, “The Chinese are optimistic (about Trump.) They think he is a businessman who has clear economic motives to make America great again and they believe they can help.”Two advisers to Trump, Alexander Gray and Peter Navarro, have written what is cited as an important article in the international affairs journal ‘Foreign Policy’ on Trump’s Asia-Pacific policy, which they described as “peace through strength”. Pillsbury said, “The piece by Gray and Navarro was officially approved by the Trump campaign. So it’s quite important.” Gray and Navarro say Trump will not sacrifice US economy on the altar of foreign policy by getting into trade deals like TPP, and secondly, Trump will rebuild the US military to be unchallenged. 

Asked about Trump’s possible policy in this region, Pillsbury said he would be “unpredictable”. “He wants the Chinese in particular to believe that he is unpredictable. That is his negotiating strategy.” What does he think are China’s intentions? He said, “I try to explain it in my book through Chinese defectors and what each of them have said. One of the defectors told us, ‘we’re following your American strategy. We want to have a Monroe Doctrine in Asia — no other power can come in. We want to steal technology, you Americans did it. You fooled the British and you surpassed them. And the British made no resistance.’ They particularly like that – that you can fool the ruling power.””People don’t know that Chinese economists forecast in writing that by 2020 they will pass us, for sure, by 2030 they will be double, and by 2049, the end of the marathon, they will be three times the size of the American economy. This is really staggering.”

 What are the top two scenarios that could play out? Pillsbury said, “One, if economic reforms succeed and China successfully turns to its internal market for consumption, buys a great deal more American exports. So it’s the Make America great again scenario. The other scenario is President Xi continues to crack down on human rights, corruption and continues to increase military spending and so we do end up with a militarily powerful China in 10 or 15 years. Those are the two leading scenarios. Those are at 30% each. That still leaves 40% unknown.”

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