Trump and the one China policy

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 17, 2017
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After a tumultuous first couple of weeks in office, President Donald Trump is dropping hints that he is quickly learning the art of diplomatic niceties - though it may be hard for a man like him to give up stubbornness for the sake of reason and maturity.

The first sign that Mr. Trump is finally settling came on Thursday, when he dispatched a letter to Chinese counterpart Mr. Xi Jinping to congratulate him on the start of the new lunar year. It was the first time that Mr. Trump reached out to China with an olive branch. In fact, he used the opportunity to respond to Mr. Xi's congratulations last month of his winning the presidency.

The letter carried a lot of importance, as it was hand-delivered by then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to China's ambassador in Washington. In another symbolic gesture towards China, first daughter Ivanka Trump attended a lunar New Year celebration organized by the Chinese embassy.

Then came the telephonic contact by Mr. Trump with Mr. Xi to assure that the United States would continue to support the "one China" policy. I think everyone in the two countries has taken a sigh of relief, because it is a sensitive issue and could derail ties between the countries. Neither the American public is interested in a new kind of cold or hot war, nor would the Chinese like to have a confrontation with Washington.

But it does not mean that the people of China are ready for some kind of give and take on the one China policy. It is non-negotiable and anyone trying to arm-twist China should know that it will never work.

Mr. Trump repeatedly attacked China during the primaries and his campaign. It was expected. What was not in the mind of the analysts was the decision by Mr. Trump to accept a call from the Taiwanese leader. The call was made in December after Mr. Trump won, and it broke a long established tradition.

Mr. Trump's other provocative steps include a threat of interference in the South China Sea and using ties with Taiwan as a bargaining chip in trade talks with China. He also threatened to impose additional tariffs and continued bashing China over currency issues.

The new president was not being advised properly when he was using tough anti-China rhetoric and threatening to leverage China's political vulnerability to get trade concessions. He should have known that China would remain steadfast in its approach towards the U.S.

The only time China showed its anger was when Mr. Trump received the call from Taiwan. The protest lodged after it was a polite reminder that international politics is not a one day affair. As a member of the globalized world, every country has the right to safeguard its interests. Though it is also true that interests are matched, contrasted, discussed and traded for the sake of interests.

The latest developments show that he is ready to follow the traditional policy towards China. The White House also said that the conversation between the two leaders was "extremely cordial." According to Beijing, the U.S. leader assured that his administration would not tinker with the one China policy.

Analyst have been left wondering if Beijing had linked Trump's call with an assurance that he would not change the long-standing stance on the one China issue. Whatever the reality, China has emerged victorious out of the first round of confrontation with the new U.S. administration. Its leadership has every reason to feel relieved and happy.

Now an irritant has been removed and the issue settled. There is no apparent threat of immediate tension. So, the two sides should use this goodwill and momentum to address other major trade and strategic issues. Being the world's two largest economies, their commercial and strategic cooperation can go a long way in creating global stability and peace.

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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