RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's hear now what a Trump presidency could mean for America's sometimes troubled relationship with China. During his presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump was unequivocal about his feelings on the matter.
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DONALD TRUMP: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country - and that's what they're doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world.
MONTAGNE: Well, there's Trump on trade with China. For some perspective on what we can expect of U.S. dealings with the second largest economy in the world under a Trump presidency, we go to Shanghai where NPR'S Rob Schmitz joins us.
ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: How are the Chinese seeing Trump's victory?
SCHMITZ: Well, despite President-elect Trump's strong words in the intro there, you know, the state media has been almost gleeful in using his victory in its ongoing criticism of American democracy. News agency Xinhua called this year's U.S. election a race to the bottom and proof that the U.S. political system is faltering.
MONTAGNE: Well, China's propaganda bureau sounds like it's happy. But beyond that, what might a Trump presidency mean for the larger U.S. relationship with China?
SCHMITZ: Well, this is where China's government may begin to worry a little because we simply don't know. Trump has no record of public service to analyze. What we do know is what he said on the campaign trail. Trump has promised to, on his first day of office, set the tone by naming China a currency manipulator.
He's also pledged to impose a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese imports. It's hard to tell if he'd actually go through with that. But what's clear from his rhetoric is that the U.S. economy under his presidency will be more protectionist, and that'll increase the likelihood of a trade war with China.
Now, the American economy would likely suffer from this, but China stands to suffer even more. China's undergoing an historic economic transition. Its growth has slowed, and it still relies heavily on exports. So any sort of trade spat with one of its largest trading partners would have widespread consequences.
MONTAGNE: Well, let's move from the economic to the political. What will a Trump presidency mean for stability in the Asia Pacific region? I mean, he's hinted at withdrawing U.S. troops from Japan and South Korea.
SCHMITZ: Right. And there are a couple of different scenarios that could happen there. If Trump decides to reduce America's military presence in the region, that could leave a vacuum that China could potentially fill. China's spending more than ever on its military, and this might give it an opportunity to test its might. It could also mean that smaller countries in the region may look to China for protection or as a possible ally, like President Duterte in the Philippines has already done.
But if you take a look at what Trump's advisers are saying, they're supporting a larger U.S. military presence in Asia. They're saying Trump would strengthen the U.S. naval presence in the region and that he would add more than 70 ships to the U.S. naval fleet to protect trade routes that pass through the South China Sea.
So under that scenario, the possibility of a military standoff with China increases. But again, because we don't have much of a record of what he would do, it's really hard to know, once he's in office, what Trump will actually do.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Rob Schmitz joining us from Shanghai.
Thanks very much.
SCHMITZ: Thanks, Renee.
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