Fri Dec 9, 2016 3:48PM
US President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a Victory Tour Rally, on December 8, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by AFP)
US President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a Victory Tour Rally, on December 8, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by AFP)

US President-elect Donald Trump has called for the improvement of relations with China, the country he previously censured for its economic policies and alleged violation of trade rules. 

"One of the most important relationships we must improve, and we have to improve, is our relationship with China," Trump said during a campaign rally in the US sate of Iowa on Thursday.

However, he criticized Beijing for the devaluation of its currency against the US dollar, and for imposing high customs duties on imported American goods.

The president-elect also criticized China for not helping Washington resolve its issues with North Korea.

"You have the massive theft of intellectual property, putting unfair taxes on our companies, not helping with the menace of North Korea like they should, and the at-will and massive devaluation of their currency and product dumping," Trump said of China. "Other than that, they've been wonderful, right?"

During the Thursday rally, he introduced his pick for the US ambassador to China, nominating the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, for the post.

Trump, who has no background in diplomacy or governance, had repeatedly said during his campaign that he would rein in China politically and economically if elected. He famously said he would levy 45-percent tariffs on imported Chinese goods and label Beijing a currency manipulator on his first day in the White House as president.

He also vowed to boost the US Navy in an apparent move to reassure China’s rivals in the disputed South China Sea and the East China Sea, which are worried about Beijing’s territorial claims in the region.

Relations between the two economic heavyweights have generally been stable, though there have been some periods of open conflict, most notably during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Tensions between them have recently escalated, however,  in the wake of Washington’s increased military involvement in Asia as part of President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the region. Obama has said no region is more important to Washington’s long-term interests than Asia. Political observers believe the “pivot” was aimed at checking China’s rise in Asia.

The US has also carried out navigation operations near islands built by Beijing in the South China Sea.