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This Is How China Is Responding To President-Elect Trump, As Told Via Panda

Beijing is taking steps to fill in where the US is pulling back, but state media argues that China still really, really, really wants to maintain the status quo.

Posted on November 22, 2016, at 1:36 p.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump's stated protectionist approach to the world and trade has suggested a possible leadership void, and left us wondering which world power is going to step up to fill that gap.

Looking around, China has been the apparent beneficiary of Trump's rise — for instance, it's now able to lecture a US president-elect about how important it is to carry out a deal to mitigate climate change.

Morne De Klerk / Getty Images

“A wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends,” said the country's former climate negotiator at a climate conference earlier this month.

And while Trump called the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership a "disaster" for the US, to the disappointment of the partnering economies, China wasted no time in selling its alternative free trade plans to the world.

Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images

At the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) Summit in Peru over the weekend, Xi Jinping pushed for regional free trade, and China's version of TPP, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is tempting to the former TPP signatories, which exclude the US at the moment.

China has also been winning over traditionally US allies in Asia — from the Philippines to Malaysia. With Trump's rhetoric focusing on domestic priorities, many in the region are at least uncertain about the prospect of the US's "pivot" to Asia strategy.

And it turns out, US–China investment has grown rapidly, to the point that in 2015, Chinese investment in the US has for the first time surpassed US investment in China — meaning China has also brought in resources and created more than 100,000 jobs in the US.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Regardless, China quickly brushed off the idea that it wants challenge the current world order, at least according to the Global Times, a state-run news tabloid.

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

In an editorial published Monday, and during a personal podcast program, Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the paper said the country "has no ability" and is not "psychologically ready" to "lead the world in an overall way." He also asserted that "it's beyond imagination to think that China could replace the US to lead the world."

It also says that China needs the status quo — the "irreplaceable" US leadership — before the country goes through "a natural and gradual process" to eventually take part in global governance.

China Photos / Getty Images

Hu has a point: It's very stressful to be the lone champion of climate change and free trade.


And when it comes to global issues like the refugee crisis, China definitely doesn't want to take the lead yet. (Did we mention that China opposes Western ideas such as democracy and universal values?)

The article is especially noteworthy because the Global Times is usually Beijing's go-to newspaper to tout how great and powerful China has become.

But now China seems to be saying, Don't force me, Donald, we can't live without each other, at least not yet.

"Sino–US cooperation is the only choice for future global governance," as Hu put it.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.