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China warns Trump that Taiwan policy is 'non-negotiable'

The Guardian logo The Guardian 15/01/2017 Tom Phillips in Beijing
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China has warned Donald Trump that he has no chance of striking a deal with Beijing involving Taiwan’s political status following the US president-elect’s latest controversial intervention on the subject.

The Chinese foreign ministry warned Trump that the longstanding “One China” policy between the two countries was the political basis for all Sino-US relations.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Saturday Trump said all options were on the table as he considered how he might reshape Washington’s relations with China, a country he accused of deliberately devaluing its currency in order to hamstring US businesses.

China’s foreign ministry hit back in a statement advising Trump, a billionaire property tycoon who has claimed “deals are my art form”, that he would never be able to achieve such a deal.

“The ‘One China’ principle, which is the political foundation of the China-US relations, is non-negotiable,” spokesperson Lu Kang was quoted as saying.

Lu warned the president-elect that the only way to avoid “disruption” to the relationship was for him to recognise the “high sensitivity” of the Taiwan question and approach the issue with “prudence and honour”.

The latest exchange between Beijing and the incoming president came after Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, infuriated Beijing by likening its island-building campaign in the South China Sea to Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea.

China’s state-run media counter-attacked, claiming Trump would face a “large-scale war” if the US followed through on Tillerson’s threat to deny China access to those artificial islands.

“Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories,” the Global Times, a Communist party-controlled tabloid, argued in an editorial.

Before Trump’s 8 November election, leading China experts said they suspected Beijing was relishing the possibility of a Trump White House as “an enormous opportunity”.

But the billionaire began ruffling Chinese feathers within days of his victory, holding a 10-minute phone conversation with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, the first such call since the US broke off ties with the self-ruled island in 1979.

Since then the atmosphere between Beijing and Washington has continued to sour, with Trump using television interviews and Twitter to criticise China’s leaders on a range of issues including North Korea, the South China Sea and their alleged manipulation of the yuan.

Trump’s decision to hand notorious China hawk Peter Navarro a position in his administration also went down badly in Beijing.

Navarro, an Irvine scholar at the University of California has described the Chinese government as a despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power.

However, it has been Trump’s threat to overturn longstanding US policy on Taiwan – which China regards as a breakaway province – that has caused most consternation in Beijing.

Last month China called on Washington to prevent Tsai from transiting through the US, amid speculation that the Taiwanese president was hoping to land a protocol-shredding audience with Trump en route to a tour of Central America.

Those calls fell on deaf ears but Tsai is not known to have met with Trump while in the US. Instead she visited Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on Saturday, using the social network to announce her appearance there.

The previous weekend Tsai met Republican senator Ted Cruz who rejected Beijing’s calls to shun Taiwan’s first female president.

“We will continue to meet with anyone, including the Taiwanese, as we see fit,” Cruz said.

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