aNewDomain — China will never bargain with the United States on matters of its own sovereignty, Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankaito said in a thinly veiled threat to the incoming Donald Trump administration today.
“The political foundation of China-U.S. relations should not be undermined,” the ambassador said. “It should be preserved. And basic norms of international relations should be observed, not ignored, certainly (they are) not be seen as something you can trade off.” He continued:
“And indeed, national sovereignty and territorial integrity are not bargaining chips. Absolutely not.”
In other words, China is saying that Trump had better get rid of any ideas that the US is somehow free to view and treat Taiwan as if it is a recognized independent country.
Every leader since 1979 has respected the two nations’ mutually agreed upon ‘one China’ doctrine, and none has openly or officially dealt with Taiwanese leaders for some 40 years as a result.
Trump’s Dec. 2 call to Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen broke tradition and flew in the face of that long US policy, which is the foundation for US-China relations.
Last Sunday, though, Trump upped the ante, saying the following to Fox:
“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.”
Perhaps Trump does understand the policy, but his apparent willingness to use the China-US ‘one-China’ policy to get trade deals or other new concessions is wrong-headed.
That’s because the US has already used that tool. Pres. Richard Nixon reached agreement on the ‘one-China’ doctrine in a series of dramatic meetings with China’s Communist Party Chairman Maoao Zedong back in 1972. Pres. Jimmy Carter cemented it.
Among other things, the US used that doctrine to drive a political wedge between China and the former Soviet Union. So that card’s been played.
Dali Yang, a University of Chicago political science professor, explained to the Times earlier this week why China would be so insulted and upset about Trump’s Taiwan stance.
“He expected for China to bargain again for the one-China position, perhaps by giving up something on trade or something of that nature,” Yang said. “This is actually the foundation of the U.S.-China relationship and not,” Yang said, “something to be bargained over.”
Someone will eventually brief Trump on all, but will he care?
Maybe not. And here’s another question:
Why is Trump willing to ruffle the feathers of the Asian superpower at any rate? The US has a lot to lose, economically and security-wise, if it loses this argument. And it appears to be on pretty weak footing.
China, after all, is serious. After Trump’s Taiwan call and follow up comments, China flew its Xian H-6 bomber flew along the nine-dash line’, a disputed boundary that traces the South China Sea, say Pentagon officials.
The flight, which neared disputed South China Sea islands, was a message for the Trump administration, the officials added.
China flew that long-range nuclear bomber outside China for the first time since President-elect Donald Trump spoke with the president of Taiwan,they said. More alarming to Pentagon officials is the fact that China is getting ready to ship more advanced surface-to-air missiles to the contested South China Sea islands, according to images from American intelligence satellites.
Trump may be a careless man and a stubborn man, but he isn’t stupid.
What’s he thinking?
In the absence of actual policy papers and press conferences, there is not much to go on here, we checked Trump’s Twitter stream for answers. At the very least, a Twitter search on Trump’s six years of tweets might at least reveal what he is and isn’t thinking about.
As we learned from our look into Trump’s views on Cuba recently, an analysis of the incoming president’s Twitter stream is one way to figure out what he is and isn’t thinking about. He so far has issued little or nothing in the form of written policy plans or press conferences, so that’s what we’ve got.
In a recent analysis of Trump’s phone conversation with the Taiwan leader, the New York Times tried to determine whether Trump’s call to Taiwan and subsequent comments were just a rookie mistake or, conversely, somehow indicative of a “calculated new start” Trump is plotting. Some sources have suggested that.
Still, the reasons and thinking around all murky at best.
Trump’s tweets on Taiwan? Thin
Surprisingly, our search of Trump’s Twitter stream for the word Taiwan returned only four tweets.
The earliest two tweets, from October and November 2011, are just tweets that take shots at outgoing US Pres. Barack Obama. Typical Trump tweet fodder.
He didn’t tweet again on Taiwan until this month, as you can see from the two tweets at the top of the box above. Both are simply defensive remarks, made after a chorus of criticism hit about his call with the Taiwan president.
Notice, too, the way he put “CALLED ME” in all caps. Was that Trump crowing about his stature as someone whom a Taiwanese leader might call or was he just pointing out that he wasn’t the one who initiated the call?
The latter seems more likely, but we cannot know, and of course this was no casual call. It was planned and scheduled by both sides in advance.
So Trump’s only meaningful tweets on the subject of Taiwan was just him justifying the call, for whatever reasons, after critics roundly knocked him for it.
But what does he say about China? We took a look and found quite a different situation.
Trump’s tweets on China? Voluminous
Search results around Trump’s tweets containing the word China, conversely, could fill a book. I found 276 of them. The earliest four are below. Beginning in 2011, these are decidedly aggressive. And they get more aggressive as time goes on.
Check out this tweet, which Trump penned in August 2012. It takes aim at the US government’s foreign debt.
It’s an interesting comment that Trump makes about debt here. Because Trump himself owes a pretty enormous debt to China its state-owned China Bank, according to a New York Times investigation in August..
According to documents the Times iinvestigation unearthed, Trump’s office building at 1290 Avenue of Americas, near Rockefeller Center owes some $950 million to four lenders, Deutsche Bank subsidiary German American Capital, UBS Real Estate Securities, Goldman Sachs Mortgage Company and Bank of China.
More recently, Trump has used Twitter to take aim at China’s currency policy and, especially, its offshoring of manufacturing and assembly to US companies.
Trump’s necktie and dress shirt companies are put together in China, we know.
It’s conjecture, but maybe Trump truly just wants to renegotiate those deals, or even renegotiate his giant loan from Bank of China.
A more recent theme in Trump’s tweets posits China as a nation that “want(s) to over take us.”
Fear mongering is a tactic Trump used well to his advantage during the campaign. Why do it around China now?
The tweets are mum on such clues, however.
Our team has yet to examine all the China-themed Trump tweets, but our cursory first look did reveal one thing: Trump has been bashing China for an awfully long time, and not just for his strange claim (which he denied in one of the presidential debates) that China “invented Global Warming” as a way to harm US interests, either.
Surely it is not lost on China intelligence or any interested student of China’s views on Asia at large that Trump has been posting anti-China tweets for nearly six years.
Take, for example, the four oldest tweets mention China in Trump’s Twitter stream.
The oldest, from January 2011, which questions “how … our factories (are) supposed to compete with China and other countries.” In 2011, it’s worth noting, Trump was already offshoring the manufacture of his shirts and ties to China.
Was he an unhappy customer?
It’s been public knowledge that Trump has offshored the creation of his brand’s ties and shirts since at least April 2011, as this ABC News piece shows.
It’s worth noting that tweet had little engagement — just one reply, 73 retweets and only 26 likes.
His July 20, 2011 tweet — an incendiary tweet even by Trump standards, which called China “our enemy” — had had 22,000 replies, 39,000 retweets and 122,000 likes.
Who was the intended audience for these tweets. Clearly, it was early preparation for his coming presidential bid. As you can see, Trump was already campaigning for the spot he has now back in 2011, as you can see from his mention os a site called shouldtrumprun.com.
Today that site contains only a copy of a statement by the Federal Election Commission saying he was eligible to run. That wasn’t always the case. It used to get a ton of hits and have quite a bit of content before the FEC filed a complaint against the Trump Organization employees who created it. Check that out here.
The bottom line, so far as there is one
In coming days, we will be taking a longer and deeper look at Trump’s other China-related tweets and posts. They are ripe for content analysis and fact-checking. They might provide clues to why Trump is willing to rupture a 40 year old detente with China over Taiwan, which he barely seemed to know was on the map until very recently.
Postscript: Here’s Donald Trump in 2012, admitting to then Late Night host David Letterman that his tie and dress shirt manufacture is offshored to China.
Here is a video report that ran today from the folks at Fortune on the China ambassador’s veiled threat to the Trump administration.
Cover image: Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen, Trump and China president Xi Jinping, by the Associated Press, All Rights Reserved, via BBC.com. Inside: Trump and Tsai Ing-wen, Associated Press file photo, All Rights Reserved, via todayonline.com; US President Richard M. Nixon with Chairman Mao Zedong in 1972, via NSarchive, All Rights Reserved; China’s Xian H-6M bomber, by Kevin McGill, via Wikimedia Commons, All Rights Reserved.