In a television interview over the weekend, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said there was “serious concern” in Beijing about President-elect Donald Trump’s policy toward Taiwan.
“I want to stress that the Taiwan question has a bearing on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Geng, as quoted by CNN. “Adhering to the ‘one China’ principle is the political bedrock for the development US-China relations. If it is comprised or disrupted, the sound and steady growth of the bilateral relationship, as well as bilateral cooperation in major fields would be out of question.”
Geng appeared to be reacting to recent comments from Trump, rather than his phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which was the first such conversation between American and Taiwanese leaders in almost forty years. As Fox News notes, Beijing’s official reaction to that phone call has “mostly been muted,” perhaps more so than many observers expected.
However, on Fox News Sunday Trump said he does not feel “bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”
I mean, look, we’re being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don’t tax them, with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn’t be doing, and frankly with not helping us at all with North Korea. You have North Korea. You have nuclear weapons, and China could solve that problem, and they’re not helping us at all.
This led to what Fox describes as “the strongest condemnation” from Beijing.
Both CNN and Fox News noticed that the really strong condemnations of Trump are coming from Chinese state-run media, which of course is not prone to writing editorials the Politburo would disapprove of.
Thus, we have the Global Times blasting Trump for being “as ignorant as a child in terms of foreign policy” and threatening that Beijing would have no reason to “put peace above using force to take back Taiwan” if the President-elect insists on using the One China policy as a “bargaining chip to peddle America’s short-term interests.”
“The one-China policy is not something that can be negotiated. It seems Trump knows only about business. He thinks he can put a price on everything,” the Global Times editors thundered. They suggested Trump should be “hit with some obstacles” on trade and other matters until he “truly understands that China and the rest of the world are not to be bullied…”
The English-language version of this tirade looks to have been watered down considerably, removing the “ignorant child” insults and warning that Beijing would “have no grounds to partner with Washington on international affairs” instead of threatening to retake Taiwan by force.
Tong Zhao of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing told the L.A. Times that China is essentially doing the same thing as Trump but from the other direction: signaling that “One China” is utterly non-negotiable, even as Trump rattles cages in Beijing by suggesting they might be.
“It’s generally interpreted here that Trump wants to negotiate the basic agreements that touch upon China’s most sensitive core interests. The natural reaction is China will stand tough and signal strongly to Trump there is no room for renegotiation,” said Tong.