President-elect Donald Trump has questioned whether the US should continue its “One China” policy.
US policy since 1979 has respected China’s stance on Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province.
But Mr Trump said that without concessions from Beijing on trade and other issues, he did not see why that should continue.
Relations with China became strained when Mr Trump took a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Mr Trump went on to post a series of tweets criticising China for its exchange rate policy and its operations in the South China Sea.
Speaking in an interview with Fox News broadcast on Sunday, Mr Trump said: “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.”
What’s interesting is that Trump was making these remarks a few days after meeting with former SOS Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was key to opening up China in the 70’s and has been a staple in advising incoming presidents since the 80s. He is also a proponent of the One China policy under the belief that the more the Western world can integrate China into international norms, the more it will dilute its communism. History would suggest that the One China policy has been largely successful – even if it came at the expense of Taiwan. (BTW, I highly recommend reading Kissinger’s “On China.” It’s a good read.)
But Trump’s statement suggest that he believes that the Once China policy has run its course and that China’s increasing economic and military belligerence over the past few years invites a more adversarial relationship. He might be right. China’s interests in the West, like owning American debt, property, trading interests, etc., make a firmer stance more effective. After all, in 1979, China was almost completely isolated and could flip off the West with few internal consequences. Now, there are powerful people in China who would lose billions should their government sever relationships with the West.
Of course, that assumes that Trump has thought this through at all.