It appears that the Chinese government might have some growing up to do:
President-elect Donald Trump has questioned whether the US should continue its “One China” policy, sparking fury from Chinese state media.
Under the policy, the US has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province.
This principle has been crucial to US-China relations for decades.
But Mr Trump said he saw no reason why this should continue without key concessions from Beijing.
Indeed. From all practical, political, and indeed moral standpoints, Taiwan is an independent sovereign state. China’s claim over Taiwan is based on the rather fanciful idea that a region that the Communists failed to capture from the sitting government in the civil war 70 years ago should nevertheless belong to the Communists, even though they plainly want to be left alone.
In the interview, broadcast by Fox News on Sunday, Mr Trump said: “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.”
Well, I’m not sure the sovereign rights of the Taiwanese should be subject to yet more horse-trading between the US and China. But I find it hard to fault Trump’s logic here.
No US president or president-elect had spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader for decades. But in the Fox interview, Mr Trump said it was not up to Beijing to decide whether he should take a call from Taiwan’s leader.
“I don’t want China dictating to me and this was a call put into me,” Mr Trump said. “It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call?
“I think it actually would’ve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it.”
Again, I’m finding it hard to disagree with this. It’s almost as if Trump has some balls.
His comments prompted an angry editorial in Chinese state media outlet Global Times, known for its hawkish rhetoric.
Titled “Mr Trump please listen clearly: The One China policy cannot be traded”, it labelled Mr Trump’s move “a very childish rash act” and said he needed “to humbly learn about diplomacy”.
It also called for a strong response, saying: “China must resolutely battle Mr Trump, only after a few serious rebuffs then will he truly understand that China and other global powers cannot be bullied.”
If a simple phone call is enough to cause heart palpitations in Beijing, then perhaps this policy isn’t very robust. As for charges of bullying, Wikipedia tells us:
The PRC has threatened the use of military force in response to any formal declaration of independence by Taiwan or if PRC leaders decide that peaceful unification is no longer possible.
Trump taking a phone call from the Taiwanese leader is a “childish rash act” and constitutes bullying. Whereas China threatening to invade Taiwan for daring to formally renounce oppressive, Communist rule is none of those things, obviously.
It’s a bold – some would say reckless – gambit, given that for China there is nothing vaguely negotiable about the island’s status.
Except for the fact that they neither own it or control it.
That may now begin to change, with the blow-hard state-run tabloid, The Global Times, true to form in being the first to up the ante, with the talk of retaking Taiwan by force, or of arming America’s foes.
The same old record, in other words.
As China gets richer and more deeply involved in the global economy and world affairs, outdated policies from Mao’s era are going to start doing them a lot more harm than good. Despite the rhetoric – or perhaps because of it – the Chinese Communist Party is a brittle regime propped up by an economy built on quicksand. This cannot last forever. China’s transition to democracy is inevitable in the long term, and they might want to consider that the Soviet Union didn’t survive this and what remained needed an awful lot of assistance. This might be in short supply if China doesn’t wind its neck in over issues like Taiwan.