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perspective

Trump haggling, but One-China principle not negotiable


As uncertainties loom large over the United States’ stance on the one-China policy, Beijing should be prepared for worst-case scenarios, particularly regarding Taiwan. 

Provocative as the call from Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen was, Beijing has been a model of restraint over US President-elect Donald Trump’s receiving it, demonstrating unusual patience for what it deems pre-presidential acclimatisation.
Apparently convinced Trump will change his tune after assuming office and surround himself with people schooled in the diplomatic arts, Beijing seems to be banking on the business acumen Trump developed as a real estate mogul to come to the fore when he takes over from Barack Obama next month.
However, Trump’s remarks in an interview with Fox News last Sunday, in which he suggested the one-China consensus that underpins ties between China and the US would be a bargaining chip in his deal-making, should be a wakeup call that this might not be the case.
“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,” he declared.
Here is the merchant’s pragmatism. He wants Chinese concessions, on trade and elsewhere, for continued US commitment to one China. This is his opening bid.
The problem, though, lies in his thinking that Taiwan can be part of any bargaining. That the island is a part of China is both a historical fact and political reality; it is not up to Washington to decide whether it is or not.
Trump and his hawkish advisers may think they have found Beijing’s soft spot and can thus extort more compromises by exploiting it. However, rather than winning unwarranted concessions through their attempt at blackmail by threatening to remove what has been the bedrock for the stability of bilateral ties for decades, they will effectively upend the relationship, which would likely mean disaster.
Trump’s bloated ego may prevent him from seeing that this is the likely outcome ahead if he persists with this gamble when handed the baton of executive power. He badly needs cool-headed guidance in diplomatic decision-making. But though its is obvious this is what he and his country now need the most, judging from the way his Cabinet is being staffed, cool heads will be in short supply.
Hence, much as Beijing may wish to chalk off Trump’s recent words as a regrettable misperception, if not ignorance, of state-to-state relations, China should be prepared for the worst-case scenarios on Taiwan, as a presumptuous and ill-guided incoming US president looks set to usher in an era of turmoil.

Published : December 14, 2016

By : China Daily  Asia News Network BEIJING