In an interview with Fox News Sunday, President-elect Donald Trump defended his decision to communicate with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and took exception to the idea that the U.S. needed to bow to Beijing’s diplomatic demands.
“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,” Trump said. “I don’t want China dictating to me.”
The foreign policy community was stunned when Trump took the call in early December, saying it violated nearly four decades of protocol. No U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has recognized the Taiwanese government; as the PRC in Beijing likes it, American officials have to pretend that Taiwan is a state of “undetermined” status. We can sell them arms, but we can’t talk to their government through traditional diplomatic channels.
Trump and his team have denied that the call signals a break in the established protocol, but Chinese leaders aren’t taking any chances. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that there was no possibility of U.S.-China relations if Trump continues to speak with Taiwanese officials.
“Adherence to the One-China policy is the political bedrock for the development of the China-U.S. relationship,” Shuang said. “If it is compromised or disrupted, the sound and steady growth of the China-U.S. relationship as well as bilateral cooperation in major fields would be out of the question.”
According to China’s state-sponsored media, a rift between the U.S. and Beijing could lead to war.
“For China, there is no balancing of trade and Taiwan,” said Wang Tao, a Chinese economic expert. “Taiwan is considered the utmost core interest of China, not for bargaining.”
And in the PRC’s newspaper, an editorial ran on Monday that mocked Trump for daring to challenge the diplomatic concessions.
“It looks like Trump only knows about business and thinks everything can be assessed with a price tag, and as long as he’s powerful enough, he could use force to buy or sell,” said the editors. “Many people might be surprised at how the new U.S. leader is truly a ‘businessman’ through and through. But in the field of diplomacy, he is as ignorant as a child.”
It remains to be seen how far Trump will take this after he assumes office, but one thing is certain: Chinese leaders know they aren’t going to be dealing with the average U.S. president for the next four years. Trump is from a new school of thought where nothing is sacred. It could spell trouble for the communists.