On December 2nd, President-elect Trump held a historic phone call with the President of rouge Chinese province, Taiwan, violating the decades old “one China” policy.
In a later interview on Fox Television (44:05), Trump answered questions about his call with Taiwanese President Cai Yingwen, explaining his strategy behind the call and his plans to bargain with Beijing using this policy.
This stance ruffled more than a few feathers. Trump’s cooperations with Taiwan seem to have the only purpose of holding the “one China” policy hostage, with plans of extracting trade deals, angering both China and Taiwan.
A recent opinion piece in the Chinese nationalist newspaper, Global Times, ran the following article, which I have translated into english.
Opinion: Listen Up, Trump: The One China Policy Cannot be Bought or Sold
On the 11th, Trump once again made suprising remarks about the problem of Taiwan, saying during an interview on Fox Television “I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.” Western media quickly interpreted this to mean that Trump hopes to pressure and blackmail China to comprise with the US on matters of trade by going back on his word with regards to the “one China” policy.
It appears that this analysis is correct. Beginning from when Trump and Cai Yingwen conducted a telephone call and when Trump referred to Cai Yingwen as “the President of Taiwan,” many people became suspicious that the US president-elect of business background is intent on using the “one China” policy, which is the cornerstone of Chinese-American relations, as a bargaining chip in order to scrounge some short-term benefits for his term in office.
After news was released on the11th, I believe that many people gasped to find that the new US leader really is a businessman through and through and is as ignorant as a child when it comes to matters of foreign diplomacy. “One China” policy has has been in effect beginning with Nixon and continuing through each successive generation since. The versions of China facing past US presidents were much weaker than China of today. Besides, the “once China” policy has already become a major tennant of the modern global order. The majority of leaders over the generations from the US and countries worldwide are not stupid and Trump didn’t fall from the sky to bestow his own unique knowledge on the world.
The “one China” policy cannot be bought and sold, but it seems that Trump only understands business. Here he thought that everything had its price, and if only he was strong enough, he could force a trade. So we would like to ask, would Americans be willing to put a price on the US consititution and roll out a new political system similar to that of Saudi Arabia or Singapore?
It seems that Trump needs to study up on humility in diplomacy and in particular, he needs to understand Sino-US relations is really all about. Importantly, you can bet that both teaching Trump about diplomacy or the three China-US Joint Communiqués are ineffective and instead, China needs to begin a round of determined struggles with him. Trump will only come to a realization about China after he gets caught on a few snags and learns that China and other world powers aren’t easily bullied.
Another question is that if Trump abandons the principles of “one China”, what need does China have anymore to be the US’s partner in most international matters? If the US publicly supports an independent Taiwan and wantonly sells arms to the Taiwanese army, what need does Beijing have to boycott or cut off forces that are hostile to the United States? Why could we not publicly support them or secretly provide them with weapons?
What’s more, the “one China” policy maintained peace in Taiwan and upheld Taiwan’s prosperity. Once Trump publicly abandons the “one China” policy, where will the Taiwan Strait’s bargaining chip be then? That is when a real crisis will occur. Because when the times comes, what necessity will Mainland China have to prioritize peaceful unification over recovering Taiwan by force?
Then, it won’t just be Trump sending a tweet or getting an interview, but rather it will be China rolling out a series of decisive policies on Taiwan. We will prove that the US was never able to lead in the Taiwan Strait and if Trump wants to sell out the “one China” policy for commercial benefits, that is very naive impulse indeed.
In the end, the power of an independent Taiwan might waver and Taiwanese authorities might regret acting as Trump’s pawn and becoming the US’s stepping stone for advancing radical policies. Maybe a day will come when Cai Yingwen will refuse to take Trump’s phone call. If Trump’s cabinet members want to gamble big money on everything, then anything can happen.
It is very likely that Trump did not put in much consideration—after all, he isn’t crazy for geopolitics, has no diplomatic experience, and doesn’t understand the dangerous reality of playing games with US power. Understanding of these notions is usually unobtainable through hearsay and needs to be experienced for onself.
Because Trump lacks experience, it is easy for him to be influenced, and even manipulated, by the hard-liners around him, especially prior to moving into the White House when the realities still haven’t hit him. Let’s see what has to say about “one China” after he moves into the White House. China must prepare sufficient gunpowder and accomany Trump on a rollercoaster of Sino-US relations. Better buckle your seatbelts because there are other people in the world.