From the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had a clear and consistent culprit for many of America’s problems: China. As he pronounced from the lobby of Trump Tower when declaring his candidacy in 2015, the American dream was dead and China, a currency manipulator and intellectual property poacher, had killed it. It was a strange location for that statement, perhaps, since Trump Tower’s biggest office tenant is a major state-controlled Chinese bank. But then again, perhaps the irony suits.
Despite overtures of collaboration with Beijing to counter North Korea, Trump has reinvigorated his China critique as president. Announcing a formal probe last month into China’s trade practices, the U.S. trade representative, Robert E. Lighthizer, said he will investigate allegations made by American business leaders that China coerces foreign companies into releasing sensitive commercial information.
But while Trump amps up the tough talk on China, laying the groundwork for potential future tariffs on Chinese imports or an alternative form of economic retaliation, Chinese economic influence continues to grow in the United States in the form of foreign investment. Despite the high economic and even security risks that new and opaque Chinese investments could pose, there has been notably little comment from Trump.