President Elect Trump has enraged Chinese sensibilities over his recent conversations and comments regarding Taiwan, but is this the beginning of a negotiation?
Donald Trump says stuff. During the US election campaign, for many people, it was the stuff of intolerance. But did he really mean it? Some negotiators, maybe even the best negotiators, adopt an extreme position in order to get a more favourable agreement.
Maybe this is the game that President Elect Trump has been playing with China.
First of all, The Donald took a phone call from the president of Taiwan, something that US presidents and indeed President elects don’t usually do.
Then, on Sunday he dropped a hint that the US may not recognise the principle that Taiwan is part of ‘one China.’
Maybe he is right. Maybe Taiwan is given a shoddy deal by the West. Maybe the west is too keen to put pragmatism before principles.
It is just that when it comes to Russia, pragmatism seems to be Mr Trump’s overriding concern. Not only has he said positive things about Vladimir Putin, not only has he been dismissive of the CIA’s argument that Russia interfered with the US election campaign, it now seems like an odds on cert that his Secretary State will be Rex Tillerson, the current boss of Exxon Mobil, and supposedly a man who knows Mr Putin better than any other American, with the exception of some bloke called Henry Kissinger.
Talking of whom, it does rather look as if a Trump presidency will reverse a policy that has dominated US thinking since the days of Nixon, and a bloke called Henry Kissinger. Under Mr Trump it is Russia first, China is way down the list.
China has not formally reacted to the latest Taiwan related Trumpism, but the Chinese state owned Global Times, often thought of as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government, stated that ‘the One China policy cannot be traded,” that China “cannot be bullied” and that it must “wage resolute struggle” against any anti-Chinese Trump rhetoric.
But maybe what Mr Trump is really doing is trying put the fear of God up China, or at least the fear of Uncle Sam, which as far as geopolitics is concerned maybe be much the same thing, so that when he finally offers a trade deal to China, which contains terms that are more favourable to the US than anything negotiated by President Obama, but involve watered down rhetoric as far as Taiwan is concerned, then China will be so relieved that it signs the deal.
But there are two obvious dangers.
For one thing, upsetting China may not seem like too good an idea, especially as the US looks to China to keep North Korea under control, and North Korea may not be that far off being able to make nuclear bomb carrying missiles that can reach the west coast of the US.
For another thing, no trade deal can create a boom in US manufacturing jobs, technology and automation, rather than globalisation, account for the majority of jobs lost in the US rust belt which voted so decisively for Mr Trump.