Donald Trump was the subject of two editorials in Chinese state newspapers in recent days, which were responding to the diplomatic fallout from Mr. Trump’s phone call with the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. The Chinese state media seems to be shifting focus away from Mr. Trump and largely blaming President Tsai Ing-wen for the call, which was seen as a slight against China. Mr. Trump was elected to be the next President of the United States in the elections on November 8 and has spoken with a number of world leaders during his transition.
A number of these calls have elicited criticism in the press due to their diplomatic ramifications, but the Taiwan call is perceived as the most serious. Relations between the United States, Taiwan, and China have been strained for decades, and a delicate balance exists that could be upset even by small diplomatic mistakes. Taiwan, while autonomous, is claimed by China under their “One China” policy, and the United States has recognized this arrangement since 1979. However, China has often threatened to invade Taiwan when that nation claims too much autonomy or denies that it is part of the “One China” system, and by treaty, the United States is obligated to step in and defend Taiwan. Both major countries have thus limited their diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese government for the last several decades. Donald Trump was the first president-elect or president to speak with a president of Taiwan since President Jimmy Carter.
Reuters reports that Chinese state media has been quick to cite Donald Trump’s inexperience as the cause of the diplomatic incident. The national English language paper, the China Daily, took this position in their editorial.
“(The Taiwan call) exposed nothing but the inexperience Trump and his transition team have in dealing with foreign affairs,” the editorial claimed.
“The action was due to a lack of a proper understanding of the sensitive issues in Sino-U.S. relations and cross-Strait ties.”
Another state paper in China, The Global Times, had a similar tone when it discussed Donald Trump.
“It seems that Trump is still taking advantage of his perceived fickleness and unpredictability to make some choppy waves in the Taiwan Straits to see if he can gain some bargaining chips before he is sworn in,” it said.
“He has zero diplomatic experience and is unaware of the repercussions of shaking up Sino-U.S. relations.”
The 10-minute phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan took place on Friday. Mr. Trump subsequently wrote on his Twitter account that he had just spoken to “the President of Taiwan,” in the context of speaking with other world leaders. As pointed out by The New York Times, the language used and even acknowledgment of the call itself caused leaders in both China and Taiwan to question whether or not the United States would be radically changing their diplomatic policy during the administration of Donald Trump.
China, on Saturday, filed a complaint with the United States over the Trump phone call, as reported by CNN. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang issued a public statement regarding the Donald Trump matter.
“We have noticed relevant reports and lodged solemn representation with the relevant side in the United States,” Shuang said.
“I must point out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of the Chinese territory… The ‘one China’ principle is the political foundation of China-US relations.”
It seems, however, that China is taking steps to minimize the incident, blaming it on the inexperience of Donald Trump in diplomatic matters. As China will have to negotiate with a Trump administration for at least the next four years, the Chinese state seems prepared to move past the Taiwan phone call and wait to see what happens after Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci and Chinag Ying-ying/AP Images]