Beijing Responds to Trump: 'The One-China Policy Is Not for Selling'

By Patrick Goodenough | December 12, 2016 | 8:18pm EST
Chinese People's Liberation Army troops on parade. (AP Photo, File)

( – Chinese officials and state media reacted with anger – and a patronizing tone – to President-elect Donald Trump’s comments questioning U.S. adherence to the “one-China” policy, shocked that he would dare challenge what has long been a sacred cow in U.S.-China relations.

“The policy has become a fundamental principle of international order,” the Communist Party publication Global Times said in an editorial, in reference to Beijing’s assertion that Taiwan is part of China. “The one-China policy is not for selling. Trump thinks that everything can be valued and, as long as his leverage is strong enough, he can sell or buy.”

Trump told Fox News Sunday, “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.”

Under the one-China policy adhered to by successive U.S. administrations Washington has full diplomatic relations with Beijing but only quasi-diplomatic ties with Taipei, whose sovereignty is not recognized by the international community despite being a thriving, self-governing democracy of 23 million people (and the world’s 22nd biggest economy and the U.S.’ ninth largest trading partner.)

China’s stance is that Taiwan is a renegade province that must return to the mainland fold – by force if necessary. The U.S. interpretation of the policy, however, has been deliberately vague, stressing the need for a peaceful solution and for neither side to unilaterally change the status quo.

Coming less than a fortnight after Trump had a phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen – also an unprecedented move for a U.S. president or president-elect – his suggestion that future adherence to the one-China policy could be a bargaining chip in negotiations with China drew strong reactions.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was “gravely concerned” and advised Trump to “fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, continue to stick to the one-China policy and the three joint communiques between China and the United States.”  In the three communiques, signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982. the U.S. acknowledged the position that there is “one China” but without explicitly recognizing Beijing’s claims to Taiwan.

Geng stressed that China views the Taiwan issue as “a core interest.”

The Global Times went for mixture of condescension and saber rattling.

“[T]his inexperienced president-elect probably has no knowledge of what he’s talking about,” it said in an editorial. “He has overestimated the U.S.’ capability of dominating the world and fails to understand the limitation of U.S. powers in the current era.”

(The English-language editorial accused Trump of diplomatic “naiveté” although the Chinese-language version used stronger language, calling him “ignorant like a child” when it comes to diplomacy.)

The party organ then called for a strong – even a military – response to what it calls the “independence forces” on Taiwan.

It said the Chinese government should explore “the possibility of disciplining those forces through non-peaceful means and make the use of military force an actual option to realize reunification.”

(Wikimedia Commons)

Taiwan’s Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan reported to lawmakers on Monday that Chinese warplanes had approached Taiwanese airspace on Saturday, in what he described as an intimidatory warning and a demonstration of China’s ability to invade the island.

(Through the 1972 Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. is committed to help Taiwan defend itself  against outside aggression. In 1996, President Clinton sent a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and battle group to the Taiwan Strait in response to belligerent Chinese military exercises and missile launches aimed at intimidating the island on the eve of its first direct presidential election.)

Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University, told the state-owned China Daily that should Trump continue to challenge the one-China policy Beijing could respond by downgrading diplomatic relations or withholding cooperation on major international issues.

(That cooperation has not always been evident. China last week joined Russia in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria – for the fifth time since the civil war began. It also remains North Korea’s closest ally and opposes sanctions directed at its nuclear weapons programs, and has become more assertive in enforcing its claims to large parts of the South China Sea, also claimed by several southeast Asian neighbors.)


A China Daily editorial said Trump’s “bloated, and bloating, ego” may prevent him from seeing the ramifications of the “gamble” he is taking with regard to Taiwan Strait policy.

“Trump and his hawkish advisors may think they have found Beijing's soft spot and can thus extort more compromises by exploiting it,” it said. “But rather than winning unwarranted concessions through their attempt at blackmail by threatening to remove what has been the bedrock for the stability, by-and-large, of bilateral ties for decades, they will effectively upend the relationship, which as some have warned would likely mean disaster.”

China’s approach to Taiwan has seen its governments and leaders belittled and the country denied representation in or membership of most international organizations.

In a letter to Trump last week, eight Taiwanese American organizations buoyed by his earlier phone conversation with Tsai urged the president-elect to develop a policy that “provides more dignity and respect for the leaders and people of Taiwan.”

They said that Taiwanese leaders are not allowed to visit Washington D.C., that its citizens are banned from entering United Nations headquarters in New York, and that Taiwan “is not a member of any international organization that requires statehood.”

Peter Chen, president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a Washington-based Taiwanese-American lobby, voiced the hope that the new era would bring “an opportunity for Taiwan to become a more normal country leading to Taiwan being brought into the family of nations.”

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