How should China respond to Trump's Taiwan card?

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/12 19:43:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, US President-elect Donald Trump questioned the One China policy while discussing his earlier telephone interactions with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen. "I don't know why we have to be bound by the One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade," Trump said. How should China react to Trump's provocations, if not rhetoric? How will the remarks influence the Sino-US relationship? Global Times reporter Liu Jianxi talked with four experts on the issue.

Shen Dingli, deputy dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University

Trump was a pragmatic businessman, and is adept in the exchange of interests. The One China policy concerns China's sovereignty. "Make America Great Again," meanwhile, is where US core interests lie. Therefore, Trump is attempting to use the Taiwan question as a bargaining chip to win more economic interests from China for his "Make America Great Again" ambition. From Trump's perspective, if Beijing takes a tough stance on trade and the economy, he will have no grounds to accept Beijing's sovereignty claims. He is pressuring China to make economic concessions.

While the Sino-US diplomatic relationship was established on the basis of the One China policy in 1979, Beijing will definitely not break off diplomatic ties with Washington just because of Trump's remarks. Economic benefits are not our core interests, but the Taiwan question is. Issues minor to China may be major to the US, and vice versa. While Beijing prioritizes sovereignty over trade, an improved US economy is at the top of Trump's agenda. Compromises will be reached if both sides safeguard their core interests at the sacrifice of minor issues. Trump is astute to use the Taiwan question in exchange for economic gains.

Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University

The economy, especially trade with China, is what Trump cares about most. However, he has little to bargain with China at present, and therefore makes provocative remarks about China's Taiwan question to pressure the Asian giant for economic concessions. He has a pragmatic view of politics, and attempts to win maximum interests by every possible means.

Trump will be disappointed. The Taiwan question, trade and the South China Sea disputes are three separate issues. We should not and will not link them together. China will, for sure, take countermeasures if Trump insists on his provocative words and deeds after taking office. For instance, against Trump's hope to expand exports to China, the Chinese side is free to cut its imports from the US, buying less Boeing airplanes, agricultural products, chemical and medical equipment. China's direct investments to the US, which is of vital importance to US manufacturing and employment, can also be reduced. China can dump or cut its holdings of US Treasury bonds as a retaliatory measure as well. Anyhow, China has a number of cards in hand to thwart Trump from reaching his selfish aims.

Trump is highly likely to breach diplomatic traditions and principles, and make provocative speeches after taking office. China should be prepared for it. However, it should be noted that Trump, although an inexperienced politician with a big mouth, is a calculating and astute businessman, and is fully aware that confrontation, either economical or political, brings good to neither side. Despite the provocations, it is impossible to see confrontation or war in the future Sino-US relationship.

Niu Xinchun, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

Obviously, Trump's provocative remarks have seriously challenged the Sino-US relationship. The One China policy is a cornerstone and pillar of the relationship between Beijing and Washington since diplomatic ties were established in 1979. However, Trump's attempts to use the One China principle as a bargaining chip will subvert the overall relationship. While trade and the economy are negotiable, the One China policy has no room for negotiation.

No matter whether Trump can meet his selfish ends, his unruly words and deeds are regarded by many observers, even in the US, as transactional and having broke decades of US diplomatic principles and traditions. His remarks have not only jeopardized world peace, but also upset the Beijing-Washington relationship. The power relationship has a basic framework, and subversion of it will have serious consequences.

Trump is known for his unpredictability. Despite his provocative remarks on China, it is still hard to estimate his future China policy at the current stage. The Chinese side should let Trump know that his words and deeds will bring good to neither side, and he will pay for his mistakes.

Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Trump was known for his defiance of principle during his election campaign. He despises not only principles -- regarding the Taiwan question -- but also his predecessor's rules on China and the Sino-US relationship. For instance, while Barack Obama has reiterated the necessity of China obeying international rules, Trump has never made similar remarks. Trump prioritizes practical interests over principles.

As a pragmatic businessman, Trump is bold at the exchange of interests. He is attempting to use the One China policy as a bargaining chip to win more economic benefits. Frankly speaking, the US still has the upper hand in its relationship with China, and thus Beijing will have little choice but to accept Trump's economic requests.

Trump is an immature politician, and has not realized the serious consequences that his provocative remarks may cause to the Sino-US relationship. He views and comments on foreign affairs any way he likes. Time is needed for him to adapt to his new post. The Chinese side has reacted to Trump's provocations in a proper manner. As Trump has not officially taken office, there is no need for the Chinese side to overreact to his remarks.

Regarding the Taiwan question, Trump does not care much about the One China policy. On the one hand, he may lift some restraints on arms sales, and sell more advanced weapons to Taiwan after taking office. On the other, he is not quite enthusiastic about involving himself in cross-Straits issue, which brings little benefit to the US.

Trump honors "America First," and will not put much effort on agendas that bring no immediate interests to him. Strategic contraction is highly likely to be his first choice in security. It should be noted that, although Trump may sell more weapons to Taiwan, he will disregard Tsai's call for help. Trump doesn't want to be bothered by Tsai and her own businesses. Forming a new government is now the urgent task for Trump. After coming to office, he will prioritize domestic issues over the relationship with China.

Chinese public opinion, as a whole, believes that Trump's being elected is better than Hillary Clinton's for China. It now seems that observers and the public were too optimistic about Trump's future policy. The president-elect is attempting to win more economic gains by lowering China's expectations of him. However, Trump's provocative remarks do not mean that he wants to launch a trade or military war with China, which will only result in a lose-lose situation.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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