Who col­lects costs for Trump’s Tai­wan call? US-China co­op­er­a­tion at risk

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

There are many pres­sure points China can push to ex­press its anger at Don­ald Trump’s call with Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen last week, in­clud­ing lur­ing away more of Tai­wan’s diplo­matic al­lies and ramp­ing up mil­i­tary de­ploy­ments in the Tai­wan Strait. China’s ir­ri­ta­tion with the call, the first by a US pres­i­den­t­elect or pres­i­dent since Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter switched diplo­matic recog­ni­tion from Tai­wan to China in 1979, has mostly been di­rected at the self-ruled is­land China claims as its own.

But it could also make life dif­fi­cult for the United States and its al­lies in the region. Shi Yin­hong, head of the Cen­tre for Amer­i­can Stud­ies at Beijing’s Ren­min Univer­sity, who has ad­vised the govern­ment on diplo­matic is­sues, said China was still in a wait-and-see pe­riod when it came to Trump, not­ing Beijing’s re­ac­tion to the call had been quite re­strained. But that would change if Trump con­tin­ued like this in of­fice, Shi said. “With­out a doubt, if the Chi­nese govern­ment judges a pres­i­dent Trump wants to chal­lenge the ‘One China’ prin­ci­ple fol­lowed since Pres­i­dent Carter, China will def­i­nitely make a very strong re­sponse.”

That could in­clude pol­icy to­wards North Korea, where China has been work­ing with Wash­ing­ton to rein in Py­ongyang’s nu­clear pro­gram, or in the dis­puted South China Sea. “Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble,” he said. Beijing could, for ex­am­ple, ease up on United Na­tions sanc­tions on North Korea, pro­vid­ing eco­nomic suc­cor to a coun­try de­vel­op­ing mis­siles that could tar­get the United States, or take a more ag­gres­sive stance to US free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion pa­trols in the South China Sea, where it has so far limited it­self to ver­bal warn­ings.

Wash­ing­ton and Beijing have also co­op­er­ated on the mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ment to limit Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram and on cli­mate change, ar­eas that Trump has said he wants to re­visit to get a bet­ter deal for the US. The sta­tus of Tai­wan is an un­re­solved is­sue from China’s civil war, when de­feated Na­tion­al­ist forces fled there in 1949, pos­ing a pointed chal­lenge to the Com­mu­nist Party’s claim to rule all of China. Beijing has never re­nounced the use of force to bring what it calls a “rene­gade prov­ince” un­der its con­trol, and Tai­wan es­ti­mates that China has hun­dreds of mis­siles tar­get­ing the is­land over the nar­row straits that sep­a­rate them.

The Global Times, an out­spo­ken and in­flu­en­tial tabloid pub­lished by the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s of­fi­cial Peo­ple’s Daily, said pun­ish­ing Tai­wan was the best way to con­vey a mes­sage to Trump. “The Chi­nese main­land can let Tai­wan lose one or two diplo­matic al­lies as a pun­ish­ment as well as a warn­ing. The main­land can also strengthen its mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment,” it said in ed­i­to­ri­als in its Chi­nese and English edi­tions. The num­ber of coun­tries main­tain­ing for­mal ties with Tai­wan, which un­til 1971 held China’s seat at the United Na­tions, has since been whit­tled away by China to just 22, mostly poor na­tions in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean.

An un­of­fi­cial diplo­matic truce be­tween China and Tai­wan ended ear­lier this year af­ter Tsai was elected in Jan­uary, when China estab­lished ties with for­mer Tai­wan ally Gam­bia. Last week a large Chi­nese busi­ness del­e­ga­tion vis­ited Panama, an­other Tai­wan friend. Tsai says she wants peace and sta­bil­ity with China, but China fears she wants to push the is­land’s for­mal in­de­pen­dence, one of the core prin­ci­ples of her Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party. China could also step up its di­vide-and-rule pol­icy fa­vor­ing pro-China politi- cians in Tai­wan with trade and ac­cess deals, while ex­clud­ing those from the rul­ing party.

The Peo­ple’s Daily over­seas edi­tion said the Trump-Tsai call set a “ter­ri­ble prece­dent” for China-US ties and put a big ques­tion mark over a smooth tran­si­tion in the re­la­tion­ship. Jia Qing­guo, dean of the School of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at Pek­ing Univer­sity and a govern­ment ad­vi­sor, said the in­ci­dent would help Chi­nese lead­ers get past ini­tial un­cer­tainty about Trump and bet­ter un­der­stand what his ad­min­is­tra­tion could mean for China, but “in a neg­a­tive way”.

“Don­ald Trump is hurt­ing the re­la­tion­ship, and that will also hurt US in­ter­ests. If he con­tin­ues this when he is in of­fice, I as­sume we will have more fric­tions - over trade, over Tai­wan. This is bad for both coun­tries.” Beijing also has to bear in mind the opin­ion of a Chi­nese pub­lic brought up to in­sist on sovereignty over Tai­wan. “Tai­wan is sim­ply a prov­ince of our China,” said one user on Weibo, China’s an­swer to Twit­ter. “Any­where, any­time we can bring things to a con­clu­sion. Have no wor­ries about that.”

China and Tai­wan have nearly gone to war three times since 1949, most re­cently ahead of the 1996 Tai­wan pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Then, China car­ried out mis­sile tests in wa­ters close to the is­land, hop­ing to dis­suade peo­ple vot­ing for Lee Teng-hui, whom it sus­pected of har­bor­ing pro-in­de­pen­dence views. Lee won by a land­slide. In the in­ter­ven­ing 20 years, Chi­nese wealth and power have grown. “China is much stronger now,” said Jia, the aca­demic and ad­vi­sor. “Pre­sum­ably a U.S.-China con­fronta­tion over Tai­wan would have a much more neg­a­tive im­pact on the in­ter­na­tional or­der and re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.” — Reuters

FREIBURG: Flow­ers and can­dles sit in front of a tree close to the Dreisam river in Freiburg, Ger­many, where the body of a stu­dent was found. A 17year-old Afghan mi­grant, who en­tered Ger­many last year as an unac­com­pa­nied mi­nor, has been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the killing. — AP

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