Proper responses to Trump’s provocations

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/6 19:58:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

US President-elect Donald Trump fired off a Twitter broadside against China Sunday, groundlessly accusing Beijing of currency manipulation and military expansion in the South China Sea. The Twitter fight was launched just two days after Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, which breached decades of US diplomatic protocol. The president-elect's behaviors have jeopardized China's interests, breached the one-China policy, and thus aroused a public uproar in China. How should we interpret Trump's provocative remarks? What are the prospects for the Sino-US relationship? What should the Chinese side do in face of provocations? Global Times reporter Liu Jianxi talked with three experts on the issue.

Watch and wait

Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University of China

Trump's actions remind us that Chinese media, scholars and the public may have been too positive about Trump's future China policy. It is hard to speculate about what his Beijing policy will look like after he takes office. The Chinese side should take into considerations Trump's campaign pledges, the telephone conversation with Tsai and his Twitter activities before analyzing the future Sino-US relationship. Trump has repeatedly targeted China on his campaign trail, and may adopt a tough stance against China both economically and politically after taking office.

Some argue that "big mouth" Trump has no diplomatic experience. This may explain his provocative tweets. Trump, by accepting Tsai's call, may attempt to test Beijing's bottom line. The offensive behaviors will only fuel tensions in the Beijing-Washington relationship.

Admittedly, the Trump team later downplayed the telephone conversation. "It was nothing more than taking a courtesy call from a democratically elected leader," US Vice President-elect Mike Pence said. However, the president-elect made no apologies for his interactions with Tsai, and become even more arrogant toward China on Twitter.

The Chinese government is still taking a watch-and-wait policy, and expects a smooth development of the China-US relationship in Trump's era. China is unlikely to take countermeasures against Trump's provocations at the current stage, but obviously will become more concerned and alert of Trump's future Beijing policy.

Don't play his games

Zhu Feng, director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies at Nanjing University

The telephone conversation with Tsai reflects the Trump team's pro-Taiwan stance. Accusing China of currency manipulation and military expansion in the South China Sea on Twitter, Trump is attempting to take preemptive measures in dealing with China. However, it should be noted that Trump has not yet officially taken office, and his actions, though offensive, will exert no effect on the international relationship. There is no need to make a big fuss about him.

Trump is known for his unpredictability, and his being elected will add more uncertainties to the future China-US relationship. The Chinese side should make full preparations for Trump's foreign policies after he takes office. More efforts should be devoted to study the Trump team, his proposed policies and his style of unpredictability. Some observers believe that China should set rules for Trump, and deter him from offensive actions in an appropriate manner. This is unrealistic. The more rules we set for him, the more unruly he becomes. Trump focuses on style over substance, and we don't need to play his games.

Clarify bottom line

Wang Yiwei, senior fellow of international relations at Renmin University of China

Apart from political considerations, Trump's telephone conversation with Tsai may be connected to his possible investments in Taiwan's real estate market, according to the online news reports. The interaction has broken with decades of US diplomatic practice, and breached the one-China policy.

The Sino-US relationship may be upset by the Taiwan question and trade after Trump takes office. Always hyping up China's currency devaluation and taxation, the president-elect is attributing American problems to China. Regarding the South China Sea issue, although Trump has made clear his "America first" policy, he will not disregard the US allies' demands. The tweets are comforting US allies in the South China Sea. His behaviors are offensive to China.

Trump should learn to obey the international and diplomatic rules. Admittedly, Trump has little diplomatic experience and is known for his reckless wording. But his "big mouth" is selective. While keeping silent on Europe's refugee crisis, Brexit and other thorny issues, Trump touched on China's bottom line by challenging its one-China policy and groundlessly accusing Beijing of currency manipulation and military buildup in the South China Sea. His ultimate purpose is to win more bargaining chips for his future negotiations with China.

We should take Trump's Twitter broadside as a lesson. If not informed of the serious consequences of his irresponsible words and deeds, Trump will continue to relentlessly overstep boundaries.

We should clarify our bottom line, warn and deter Trump in a proper way, and make it clear that there will be consequences for his actions. The Chinese government should send signals, publicly or privately, to Trump that he will pay for his mistakes if he challenges China's national interests

However, there is no need to make a fuss about Trump at present as he has not yet officially taken office, and his provocations will result in little serious consequences. To put the situation under control, China can choose to protest against Trump's irresponsible words and deeds via diplomatic channels at the current stage.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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