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China may prefer Trump to Clinton, says China Beige Book president

The Chinese people may prefer Donald Trump to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton despite the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's repeated threats to impose tariffs on China, according to Leland Miller, president of China Beige Book International.

Many Americans think the Chinese hate Trump because of his anti-China rhetoric, Miller said. But he thinks the Chinese see the real estate developer and reality TV star as "an interesting opportunity."

"I think a lot of people in China, they see Donald Trump, they see this negotiator. They say, Hillary Clinton, we know she's going to be mean to us. Donald Trump wants to make a deal. He doesn't care about the South China Sea. He may not know where it is," Miller told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

Miller said Trump is a "smart guy," but questioned whether he cares much about geopolitical issues such as China's dispute with a number of Asia-Pacific countries over its claim of sovereignty over nearly the entirety of the South China Sea.

That dispute has been a flashpoint between China and the United States, which backs an international resolution to the conflict and is closely allied with the Philippines, which has challenged China's claim in an international court.

The Chinese and American militaries have confronted one another numerous times in the South China Sea. In May, a U.S. warship sailed within miles of hotly contested islands China has recently developed.

In fact, Trump commented on China's placement of military equipment and airfields on the islands in an interview with The New York Times published in March.

"We have rebuilt China, and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen," Trump told the Times. "Amazing, actually. They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country."

He suggested using trade negotiations as a weapon to bring China to heel on the issue.

Clinton was President Barack Obama's top diplomat as he embarked on his foreign policy pivot to Asia. During her tenure, she angered China by saying a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea dispute was a "national interest" of the United States.

On its website, the Clinton campaign says she reasserted "America's role as a Pacific power and called out China's aggressive actions in the region." Clinton promises to encourage China to be a "responsible stakeholder" on a number of issues, including territorial disputes, "and hold it accountable if it does not."

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