Opinion: Mike Pence, holy saboteur
Updated 17:40, 23-Nov-2018
By Zhu Zheng
Editor's note: Zhu Zheng is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law with China University of Political Science and Law. The article reflects the author's opinion and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
There are threats to the ongoing China-U.S. trade negotiations. A big one are the bone-headed brass hats in the White House acting as saboteurs, who constantly send poisonous messages across the Pacific Ocean. This has cast a dark shadow over relations.
One of them is be Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, whose saber-rattling words often deal a heavy blow to Sino-U.S. dialogues, and as a result, the tone from the American side becomes increasingly confusing, if not entirely damning.
For instance, after Larry Kudlow, the National Economic Council Director and top adviser to the President, announced that Washington welcomed the resumption of talks with China, Pence told the press that while U.S. President Trump is leaving the door open for a deal with China, Beijing will have to change its posture on economic, military and political matters in accordance with Washington's demands.
According to Pence, “this is China's best, if not last, chance to avoid a Cold War scenario with the United States,” since the U.S. is ready to escalate economic, diplomatic and political pressure if China does not offer concessions.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, October 4, 2018. /AFP

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, October 4, 2018. /AFP

This reminds us of Pence's former speech at the Hudson Institute last month, in which he laid out the new administration approach in stark terms, threatening that there would be no let-up in America's policy of containing China. As he proclaimed, the U.S. will not stand down, and will keep providing reasonable alternatives for its allies in Indo-Pacific and beyond, and in due course, the victory will be on the American side.
The speeches present an entirely hawkish portrait of Pence, especially when it comes to matters with China. It should be noted that Pence is not mirroring his boss – even Trump has softened his tone from time to time. Rather, he is acting in a way that is more antagonistic, more self-infatuated, more unhinged, and more vicious, but why?
It can be argued that pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, the vice president is entitled to succeed the presidency in the event of a president's resignation or inability, and this has provided institutional impetus for Pence to demonize Trump and then perhaps take over. 
However, no matter how unpopular Trump turns out to be, it is unrealistic to expect that the president would step down and hand over his power willingly to his allies. Besides, it should known that taking a harsh position against China has earned partisan support in the U.S., and following this hawkish line would only buttress Trump's rule.    
Therefore, a more plausible interpretation would be reading Pence's stance from a political perspective. As much as the relationship between the president and vice president is concerned, Pence remains loyal to Trump – if Pence were not supposed to sanctify Trump he would not be vice president in the first place. 
U.S.‍ President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. /VCG Photo

U.S.‍ President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. /VCG Photo

Moreover, given that Trump himself is extremely suspicious, and as the New York Times unveiled, there really is a White House resistance against Trump, paying tribute to Trump and even acting in an obsequious manner would secure Pence his current place within Trump Administration.
If that is the case, Pence is in fact strictly implementing the president's hawkish strategy. Strategically speaking, by lashing out openly against China and leaving the boss sitting on his hands behind the scene, Pence is muffling Trump's positive image and providing the U.S. more leeway to bargain for a better deal with Beijing in the Buenos Aires meetings next week.
Alas, if that is the calculation underlying Pence's ferociousness and combativeness, the U.S. would be disappointed in the end. 
After all, China will not back down in the face of threats and challenges. As the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong said, in the eyes of the Chinese people, the American imperialists look powerful and scary but unable to withstand the wind and the rain, they are nothing but a paper tiger.    
(Cover photo: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivers his keynote speech at the CEO Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby on November 17, 2018. /VCG Photo)
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