China shows restraint in face of Trump protocol breaks

09-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Global Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Chinese leadership has demonstrated diplomatic restraint in the face of US President-elect Donald Trump’s protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwan’s leader, followed by his provocative tweets, with analysts warning that China’s strategic composure should not be mistaken as weakness as the country is still evaluating how much of Trump’s words would turn into policies before the country takes concrete action.

China should not formally respond to every provocative voice from the US, Zha Daojiong, a professor of International Political Economy at the School of International Studies of Peking University, told the Global Times.

“We should know by now that in every US general election year, there are always unfriendly voices, and those voices are not geared toward China,” Zha said, stressing that China also should not wait and expect the US president or Congress to make the first friendly overture.

China has remained rather restrained in response to Trump’s tweets and protocol-breaking phone call with Tsai Ing-wen. China’s foreign ministry said the country lodged a solemn representation after the call but the ministry has, until this day, refrained from criticising Trump.

“At this moment, I’ve been very impressed by the calm reaction of the Chinese leadership, which suggests a determination to see whether a calm dialogue can be developed,” former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said Monday at an event sponsored by the National Committee on US-China Relations. Kissinger met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Friday to discuss the relationship.

Compared to the official response, Chinese netisens have been more direct. During the election, many Chinese netisens preferred Trump over rival Hillary Clinton, but now they have turned against him and are mocking him.

“Make every Chinese hate you before you formally become US president. Come on Trump, this is not wise,” a netisen on posted.

Gain leverage

“Trump will possibly confront China on issues like Taiwan, currency and trade, and this is what we are worried about,” Wang Yiwei, a senior fellow of international relations at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

He said he believes that Trump is being provocative because he wants to gain leverage on future economic negotiations with China.

Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations, stressed that just because the reaction has not been tough so far, it does not mean that China has no solution to Trump’s continued provocations.

Chu said that now China has more strength and confidence, so “action is much more important than words, especially to politicians like Trump. They will understand our points when they feel pain.”

“Now the US does not have enough military advantage against China, if war breaks out, will the US send its aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Straits like in 1996?” he said.

In 1996, then-leader of Taiwan Lee Teng-hui precipitated a cross-Straits crisis by moving Taiwan away from the one-China policy.

Xi in Davos

According to the Financial Times (FT), Xi will attend the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January in Davos, Switzerland “in what would be the first such appearance by a Chinese president,” although there is no confirmation from the Chinese government so far.

“It demonstrates just how much ambition China has to the outside world now, and how Xi is the carrier of that,” Kerry Brown, a Chinese studies professor at King’s College London, told the FT. “[Xi's] attendance at Davos would be looked at as a sign that China is starting to fill space being potentially vacated by the US under Trump.”

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting 2016, many countries, including close US allies like Australia and New Zealand and Trans-Pacific Partnership members Chile and Peru, encouraged China to play a more important role now that US and European isolationism and protectionism are on the rise.

At the Apec meeting, Xi bolstered confidence in China’s support for free trade by promoting a China-backed free trade deal.


Category: China

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