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US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is on his first visit to China. However, it is naive to expect any dramatic outcome on bilateral ties from his visit. In Chinese customs, the guest will usually bring along some "presents" during his visit to somebody’s home. Of course, I am not referring to "solid" expensive gifts such as money or gold bars, but some friendly gestures such as declaring suspension of arm sales to Taiwan or some good news on ZTE.|
On the contrary, the US has taken 3 unfriendly actions against China during his visit. Such actions can be regarded as Trump's negotiation tactics, just like a big bully posing and flexing his muscles before giving his victim more wallops.
1. Whether intentionally or not, Trump seems to be thumbing his nose at China by sending his defence chief during Exercise RIMPAC from June 27 to August 2, 2018 after disinviting China from the exercise.
2. The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan, a US aircraft carrier, visited the Philippines on Tuesday (June 26), the third such call in four months, as its commander cited America's "enduring presence" in a region where China's military aims have raised tensions. It docked in Manila after sailing through the disputed South China Sea as part of a mission intended to reassure Washington's allies in the area.
3. The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Tuesday to tighten foreign investment rules, spurred by bipartisan concerns about Chinese bids to acquire sophisticated US technology. The bill, passed 400-2, is one of a series of measures being considered by the Trump administration and Congress to address the so-called national security concerns as well as what they see as China’s unfair trade and intellectual property practices.
Other measures include tariffs on goods ranging from aluminum to automobiles, and efforts to prevent the expansion in the US of Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp.
Despite the claim that the bill is aimed at tightening "foreign investment" rules, it is obvious that the US is cracking its whip hard at Chinese investments. Why all the trouble in changing the name of the target from "Chinese investments" to "foreign investments"? It won't be difficult to see that the US is afraid of retaliation by China, and is trying hard to avoid it.
Conclusion: Hence, don't expect any good will come out from Mattis' visit to China. I can use two analogies to describe the purpose of his visit. Using the first analogy, it is just like a cook testing whether the food is ready for the table by poking it with a chopstick or scooping it out with a spoon.
Using a second analogy, it is just like a caregiver opening a door to find out whether the naughty boy locked inside the room as punishment has become well-behaved.
In short, it is an "exploratory visit" aimed at finding out whether China is ready to give in to US demands, economically or militarily.