By Dave Clark ,AFP
WASHINGTON — With a few apparently off-the-cuff comments, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has threatened Washington’s cautious understanding with China while touting an unlikely new detente with Russia. The United States and China, the world’s two greatest economies and rivals for the leadership role in the Pacific, are often at loggerheads over trade, human rights and regional disputes. But President Barack Obama has extended a hand to China’s Xi Jinping and worked with Beijing on the global climate change accord and on measures against North Korea’s rogue regime. On Monday, businesswoman turned defeated presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina left Trump’s New York office and said they had discussed Trump’s opportunity to “reset” U.S. foreign relations. As part of this, Fiorina told reporters, she and Trump “spent a fair amount of time talking about China as probably our most important adversary and a rising adversary.”
Never has current U.S. leader Obama called into question the “One China” doctrine, which accepts that currently self-administered Taiwan is part of one state one day to be united under Beijing.
Trump may have recently taken advice from Henry Kissinger, architect of late president Richard Nixon’s U.S.-China breakthrough, but he has broken with this four-decade consensus. Over the weekend, in a series of Tweets and an interview with Fox News, the incoming president suggested Beijing may have to make concessions on trade if U.S. policy is not to change. The tactic drew scorn from the outgoing U.S. administration. Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said Taiwan’s future should not become a “bargaining chip” in U.S. relations with Beijing. In directly challenging China over trade and its takeover of disputed islets in the South China Sea, Trump risks provoking Beijing into a response with global economic implications. “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,” Trump told Fox News. In this, he was doubling down on an earlier provocation when he took a call from Tsai Ing-wen, the elected president of Taiwan, in a break with established U.S. protocol of non-recognition. The response from China — America’s biggest single goods trading partner and the holder of almost a trillion dollars in U.S. government debt — was ominous. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing considers the island a “core interest” in China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The One China policy is the “political bedrock” of relations with the U.S., he added and if it is “compromised or disrupted” cooperation in major fields would be “out of the question.”