President-elect said he sees no reason why the US should continuing abiding by the policy unless a bargain is reached with Beijing involving trade
Donald Trump has risked further alienating Chinas Communist party leaders after declaring he was willing to abandon more than four decades of diplomatic understanding with the worlds second largest economy unless a fresh accord between the two sides could be struck.
In an interview with Fox News, the president-elect said he saw no reason why the US should continuing abiding by the One China policy – by which Taiwan is officially considered part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland – unless a bargain was reached with Beijing involving other things, including trade.
I fully understand the One China policy, but I dont 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, Trump told the channel on Sunday.
The comments came less than a fortnight after the property tycoon looked to have initiated a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing by holding a telephone conversation with Taiwans president Tsai Ing-wen and subsequently attacking China on Twitter.
In what was widely seen as an attempt to soothe tensions, Trump subsequently appointed Iowa governor Terry Branstad – a man China called an old friend of the Chinese people – as ambassador to Beijing.
Orville Schell, the head of the Centre on US-China Relations at New Yorks Asia Society, said Trumps latest comments – which the academic described as an incredible provocation – were the latest example of the billionaires contradictory moves towards China.
He sometimes punches Beijing and he sometimes seems to reach out and hug them. The phone call would to Tsai Ing-wen would be the former. Terry Branstad would be the latter. Now we have another upper cut, he said of the Fox News interview.
Speaking on Sunday, Trump defended his protocol-shredding decision to talk to President Tsai on 2 December, the first such conversation between a US president or president-elect and a leader of the self-ruled island since ties between America and Taiwan were severed in 1979.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province and does not allow countries to maintain diplomatic relations with both Taipei and Beijing.
I dont want China dictating to me and this was a call put in to me, Trump said. It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I cant take a call?
I think it actually wouldve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it, Trump added.
The president-elect also returned to some of the themes on which he bashed China during the election campaign.
Were being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we dont tax them, with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldnt be doing, and frankly with not helping us at all with North Korea, he told Fox News.
You have North Korea. You have nuclear weapons and China could solve that problem and theyre not helping us at all.
Schell said it was hard to predict how Beijing might respond to Trumps latest gambit.
I dont know what Beijing is going to make of this because they have always dealt with these very square, proper people like Obama and Hillary Clinton who have always sought to keep the US policy relatively constant. And here you have someone who is doing the absolute opposite, he said.
I think they will be very careful about responding because in a certain sense they are meeting a brinksman just like themselves.[and] I dont know what a brinksman or a bully does when they meet another brinksman and a bully. [Violence] would be one option, but very often one of them backs down.