Donald Trump has a striking knack for simplifying complex international problems. For years, for example, scholars have debated whether China will be a constructive or disruptive global power. Many have argued that it could take decades to find out. Thanks to Trump, we could know the answer in just a few months.
In recent days, Trump has managed to antagonize Beijing by speaking with Taiwan’s president, and doubled down on his provocation by calling out China’s economic policy and military posture on Twitter. This should not come as an utter surprise: The president-elect was frequently critical of China on the campaign trail.
Sober U.S. analysts presumed that he would take a more sophisticated approach once in office. This now seems optimistic. It is easy to dismiss hyperbolic campaign speeches; it is rather trickier to argue that the president-elect is simply letting off steam during his transition, and that his tirades are “only words.”