Chinese Media Warn Trump Against Using Taiwan as Bargaining Chip

HONG KONG (Bloomberg News/TNS) -
A crane lifts a container at Keelung port, northern Taiwan. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters/File Photo)
A crane lifts a container at Keelung port, northern Taiwan. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters/File Photo)

Chinese state media warned President-elect Donald Trump on Monday of a “real storm” if the One-China policy regarding Taiwan is used as a bargaining chip in trade talks.

The Global Times, a party-run newspaper, said in an editorial on Monday that the One-China policy “cannot be bought or sold” and indicated that China should consider arming American adversaries if the U.S. supported Taiwanese independence. Trump said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that his support for the decades-old policy will hinge on cutting a better deal on trade.

“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,” the paper said. China should make Trump “hit some snags” to show him it’s not “easy to bully,” it said.

The swift reaction to Trump’s latest comments — China’s foreign ministry said at an afternoon briefing it was seriously concerned about them — signals that policymakers in Beijing are losing patience with the real-estate mogul’s attacks. The initial response had been more subdued after Trump broke with decades of protocol earlier this month in speaking by phone with Taiwan’s president.

“For China, there is no balancing of trade and Taiwan,” said Wang Tao, head of China economic research at UBS AG in Hong Kong. “Taiwan is considered the utmost core interest of China, not for bargaining.”

Trump threatened during his campaign to brand China a currency manipulator immediately upon taking office, and to slap 45 percent tariffs on its exports to the U.S. He has repeated his accusations against China since Election Day, telling a crowd in Iowa last week that China would soon have to “play by the rules.”

“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 in interview with “Fox News Sunday” that was taped on Saturday. “I don’t want China dictating to me,” he added, echoing his comment a week ago on Twitter.

Trump’s 10-minute phone call with President Tsai Ing-wen in early December was the closest a Taiwanese leader has come to getting formal recognition from Washington since the U.S. established ties with the Communist government in Beijing almost four decades ago.

The One-China policy is an acknowledgment that Taiwan and China are part of the same China, even if they disagree on what that means. Chinese leaders define Taiwan as a so-called core interest, with the view that the island belongs to China and will never be independent.

The policy was worked out in the 1970s as President Richard Nixon switched formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taiwan’s Kuomintang government, which fled to the island during a civil war three decades earlier.

At the same time, China has been willing to allow Taiwan almost complete unofficial sovereignty. The U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weapons to the Taiwan government over the years, while China’s own trade with the island has risen steadily.

While it emerged that former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, acting as a paid lobbyist for Taiwan’s government, connected Trump’s staff with Taiwanese officials in advance of the call, Trump defended his decision to speak with Tsai. He said he accepted the call, which was made by Tsai. Claims from his own advisers that he was considering the move for weeks were “all wrong,” he said.

“Why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call?” Trump said. “It actually would’ve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it.”