Ed­i­to­rial

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

Provoca­tive as the call from Tai­wan leader Tsai Ing­wen was, Bei­jing has been the model of re­straint over United States pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s re­ceiv­ing it, show­ing un­usual pa­tience for what it deems pre-pres­i­den­tial ac­clima­ti­za­tion. Ap­par­ently con­vinced Trump will be dif­fer­ent after as­sum­ing of­fice and sur­round him­self with peo­ple schooled in the diplo­matic arts, Bei­jing seems to be bank­ing on the busi­ness acu­men Trump de­vel­oped as real es­tate mogul to come to the fore when he takes over from Barack Obama in Jan­uary.

But Trump’s re­marks in an in­ter­view with Fox News on Sun­day, in which he sug­gested the one China con­sen­sus that un­der­pins ties be­tween China and the US is a bar­gain­ing chip in his deal mak­ing, should be a wakeup call that this might not be the case.

“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,” he de­clared.

Here it is — the mer­chant’s prag­ma­tism. He wants Chi­nese con­ces­sions, on trade and else­where, for con­tin­ued US com­mit­ment to one China. This is his open­ing bid.

The prob­lem, though, lies in his think­ing Tai­wan can be part of any bar­gain­ing. That the is­land is a part of China is both a his­tor­i­cal fact and po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity; it is not up to Washington to de­cide whether it is or not.

Trump and his hawk­ish ad­vi­sors may think they have found Bei­jing’s soft spot and can thus ex­tort more com­pro­mises by ex­ploit­ing it. But rather than win­ning un­war­ranted con­ces­sions through their at­tempt at black­mail by threat­en­ing to re­move what has been the bedrock for the sta­bil­ity, by-and-large, of bi­lat­eral ties for decades, they will ef­fec­tively up­end the re­la­tion­ship, which as some have warned would likely mean dis­as­ter.

Trump’s bloated, and bloat­ing, ego may pre­vent him from see­ing that is the likely out­come that lies ahead if he per­sists with this gam­ble when he gets handed the baton of ex­ec­u­tive power. He badly needs cool-headed guid­ance in diplo­matic de­ci­sion-mak­ing. How­ever, ev­i­dent as it is that this is what he and his coun­try now need the most, judg­ing from the way his Cab­i­net is be­ing staffed, it is some­thing that is go­ing to be in short sup­ply.

So, much as it may like to chalk off Trump’s re­cent words as re­gret­table mis­per­cep­tion, if not ig­no­rance, of state-to-state re­la­tions, Bei­jing should be pre­pared for the worst-case sce­nar­ios, par­tic­u­larly re­gard­ing Tai­wan, as a pre­sump­tu­ous and ill-guided Trump looks set to usher in an era of tur­moil.

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