As reported by the Associated Press, American-Chinese relations have taken a turn for the worse with the victory of Donald Trump. While the Chinese government has hardly been an ally or even a friend to the United States – in fact we have long-simmering disputes with them – we have managed to avoid significant confrontations through a subtle diplomatic dance. But subtlety and Donald Trump do not belong in the same sentence.
The United States and Taiwan
The current government of Taiwan is a product of the shifting status for the control of the island in the early to mid 20th century. China retook control of Taiwan from Japan following World War II, but the Republic of China government was eventually forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan following the Communist takeover of the mainland.
Since 1979, the United States and China have had a “gentleman’s agreement” about Taiwan. The United States – on the one hand – technically stopped having direct diplomatic relations with the government of Taiwan. On the other hand, the Chinese tacitly – although not publicly – agreed not to invade the tiny island nation as long as it did not declare full independence.
However, this wink and a nod arrangement in American and Chinese diplomacy is already being thrown out the window by Donald Trump, whose ill-advised and off-the-cuff chat with the current leader of Taiwan violated understandings between the United States and China that no official contact would occur between the two governments.
Yes, the Chinese accommodated themselves to unofficial ties, business arrangements, and even military equipment sales to Taiwan – but they drew the line at official relations between the United States and the Taiwanese government. From the perspective of many, Trump’s decision to engage with Taiwan in this way actually endangers Taiwan’s security.
China and the Drone
American-Chinese relations certainly won’t be helped by Donald Trump’s interference in a current diplomatic kerfuffle involving a United States submersible drone belonging to the USNS Bowditch that was captured by the Chinese. According to NBC News, while the Chinese have agreed to return this drone – no doubt after examining it quite closely – Donald Trump decided to put in his two cents – even though he’s not actually the president of the United States yet.
Trump announced in one of his patented petulant Twitter tweets that China should keep the drone, creating a new word for the dictionary in the process by misspelling “unprecedented” as “unpresidented.” This serendipitous mistake has created what will likely be the perfect term to describe Donald Trump’s future foreign policy.
American-Chinese Relations and Japan
For decades now, America’s principal ally in the Asia-Pacific area has been Japan. While it’s certainly true that Japan has not committed itself to a large-scale military because of constitutional restrictions, it still has one of the most well-equipped and well-trained navies in the world.
Not to mention, Japan provides the United States with important military bases and assets in the region. But as reported by ABC News, all of this isn’t enough for Donald Trump, who has suggested that Japan – like NATO – needs to pull its weight – whatever that might mean in the real world.
While encouraging the Japanese government to strengthen its military might have some merit, antagonizing and threatening them isn’t necessarily the best way to go about it. The Japanese could easily decide to evict us from our military bases in their country. We’re already having trouble on the island of Okinawa, where the local population definitely wants us to leave.
Donald Trump’s total lack of experience in governance, and in matters ranging from foreign affairs to military policy, means that American-Chinese relations are likely to become highly volatile in the coming years. As unpredictable as many Americans may find Trump, the Chinese government – which is extremely fond of consistency and predictability – will probably look aghast at his offensive and dangerous antics.
[Featured Image by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images]