Reports that China either murdered or jailed 18 to 20 CIA agents between 2010 and 2012, crippling US spying operations in Beijing, came on the heels of the country’s historic Belt and Road Forum.
Since taking office in January, US President Donald Trump has shown a remarkable shift on a number of major issues, including his position on relations with China after his meeting with President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago shortly after his inauguration.
Keith Bennett, an expert on China, told Radio Sputnik's Brian Becker that, in this regard, Trump is no different than other US presidents who campaigned with a hard stance against China but pursued a much more pragmatic position once elected.
"[Trump] is more inclined to swing between extremes in his rhetoric than others, and he is also very keen to present anything he does to be a great success, so once he agreed to meet Xi Jinping, obviously he had to present it as being successful in his eyes. Also, Donald Trump needs China if he is to deliver even part of the economic program in the United States that he campaigned on," Bennett noted.
"And most overwhelmingly, the one factor that affects every US presidential candidate who then wins office is that US-China economic relationship is extremely important and it can't be ignored."
Many believe that US participation in the One Belt, One Road Forum that China is sponsoring goes against the "America first," "Make America Great Again" ideology Trump has been promoting.
"The decision by the Trump administration to have some US representation at the Belt and Road Forum is certainly a slap in the face to those who simply want Trump to take a hard stand against China. It's not necessarily a slap in the face to the economic program that Trump seeks to put forward, in that major US companies like General Electric are very keen to get some of the contracts that flow from the Belt and Road initiative," Bennett said.
"Certainly, the Belt and Road initiative exists to provide opportunities for Chinese companies, but the scope of the… initiative cannot be met by Chinese companies alone, and particularly, for an advanced economy like the United States, there could be plenty of opportunities…There is considerable scope between the United States and China for Chinese involvement in modernizing US infrastructure as well."
As for the New York Times reports of the intelligence breach, which US officials have called one of the worst in decades, Bennett believes it shows that irrespective of ups and downs in US-China relations, there are fundamental contradictions between the countries that are "not going to go away."
"We know from numerous sources that for the United States to gather intelligence on the People's Republic of China is a very high priority… And, obviously, for the Chinese it will be very high priority to do whatever they can to frustrate that," he said.
"China and the United States may on a number of levels have friendly relations, but it's very important to be clear that the two countries are not allies."
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.