On Sunday, US President-elect Donald Trump made some surprising remarks about the Taiwan question again. When interviewed by the Fox News network, he said, "I fully understand the 'One China' policy, but 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." From these remarks, Western media believes that Trump may use the policy to force China to make a compromise on trade.
It seems that such an analysis is credible. During a phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, Trump called Tsai "Taiwan President," making many people suspect that the businessman-turned US President-elect will use the One China policy, the cornerstone of Sino-US relations, as a bargaining chip to peddle America's short-term interests.
With Trump's new remarks on Taiwan, many people marveled at Trump's commercial thinking and naivety for diplomacy. The One China policy has gone through the ages since the Richard Nixon administration. In addition, the policy has become a fundamental principle of international order. Leaders all around the world, including US leaders, understand the importance of the policy.
The One China policy is not for selling. Trump thinks that everything can be valued and, as long as his leverage is strong enough, he can sell or buy. If a price can be put on the US Constitution, will the American people sell their country's constitution and implement the political systems of Saudi Arabia or Singapore?
Trump needs to learn to handle foreign affairs modestly, especially the China-US relationship. More importantly, a hard struggle against Trump is needed to let him know that China and other world powers cannot be easily taken advantage of.
If Trump gave up the One China policy, publicly supported Taiwan independence and wantonly sold weapons to Taiwan, China would have no grounds to partner with Washington on international affairs and contain forces hostile to the US. In response to Trump's provocations, Beijing could offer support, even military assistance to US foes.
The One China policy has maintained peace and prosperity in Taiwan, and, if abandoned, cross-Straits ties would see a real storm. China would introduce a series of new Taiwan polices, and may not prioritize peaceful reunification over a military takeover if Trump insisted on his provocations. The US has no control over the Straits, and Trump is naïve to think he can use the One China policy as a bargaining chip to win economic benefits from China.
Eventually, those who advocate Taiwan independence will tremble. Taiwanese authorities may regret to being a pawn of Trump and his radical policies. And Tsai will refuse to answer Trump's call some day. Nothing is impossible if the Trump administration goes too far.
In the meantime, it's very likely that Trump may not have put too much thought into it. He is no geopolitical maniac, but just has little experience in diplomacy. He doesn't understand how dangerous it can be when he involves the US in such an explosive game. After all, this requires some personal experience.
Given his inexperience, Trump is easily subject to the hawkish advisers around him. He assumes whatever he says doesn't matter before he takes office. We will learn more about how he interprets the One China policy after he is sworn in. Meanwhile, China needs to be fully armed and prepared to take a Sino-US rollercoaster relationship together with Trump. And many others in the world will probably also need to fasten their seatbelts.