US President-elect Donald Trump
's spokesperson Kellyanne Conway came to Trump's defense over the issue of his phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, telling CNN that he is "fully briefed and fully knowledgeable about these issues." Meanwhile, Tsai's spokesperson Alex Huang told NBC News that "Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Straits."
The Trump-Tsai phone call has rocked and confounded the world. All US mainstream media have pointed out that the Taiwan question is among the most sensitive issues in East Asia, and any mishandling of it could lead to war. Trump's jaw-dropping move has raised many doubts about whether it is in line with the US' long-term interests.
It seems that Trump is still taking advantage of his perceived fickleness and unpredictability to make some choppy waves in the Taiwan Straits to see if he can gain some bargaining chips before he is sworn in.
The US is losing its competitive advantage against China, to say nothing of acquiring new leverage. Trump might be looking for some opportunities by making waves. However, he has zero diplomatic experience and is unaware of the repercussions of shaking up Sino-US relations.
It is certain that Trump doesn't want a showdown with China, because it is not his ambition, and neither was it included in his promise to the electorate. He puts out feelers to sound China out and chalk up some petty benefits.
China should understand Trump has two faces. On the one hand, he is bluffing and unpredictable, and on the other, he has no plan to overturn international relationships, and will focus on US internal affairs to "make America great again." China should become skillful and tactful in dealing with the Trump government.
China has solemnly protested about Trump's recklessness, and it should do more. It is inappropriate to target Trump since he is still a president-elect. China can punish the Tsai administration, as a way to convey a message to Trump. The Chinese mainland can let Taiwan lose one or two diplomatic allies as a punishment as well as a warning. The mainland can also strengthen its military deployment based on Anti-Secession Law against Taiwan in case of its independence.
At worst, Trump might retaliate by raising political and even military tensions with China, which could give the US leverage to force China to concede more economic benefits. China shouldn't let the US gain extra economic advantages by unfair means.
China's response to Trump's instigation of the Taiwan question should be a lesson for him. However, despite these tit-for-tat measures, it is best to engage in constructive conversations with him. China must note that dealing with Trump requires multiple instruments in many aspects. We need to be clear-minded.