Beijing threatens to ‘take off the gloves’ over Trump’s approach to China

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President-elect Donald Trump’s statements on the alleged negotiability of the United States’ “One China” policy has led Chinese government leaders to threaten to “take off the gloves.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal posted Friday, Trump hinted that he wasn’t willing to commit to the “One China” policy — which treats Taiwan, a nation that claims independence from Beijing, as part of China — until he could assess whether or not China was a currency manipulator.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the US if he determined they were actively attempting to manipulate the value of currency.

His statements to the Journal on the “One China” policy prompted concern from some Chinese leadership who issued a strongly-worded retort Sunday on the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs agency website, Bloomberg reported:

“The One-China principle, which is the political foundation of the China-US relations, is non-negotiable,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement on the agency’s website.

“In order to avoid disruption to the sound and steady development of the China-US relations and bilateral cooperation in key areas, we urge relevant parties in the US to fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan question, approach Taiwan-related issues with prudence, and honor the commitment made by all previous US administrations of both parties on adhering to the one-China policy,” Kang said in the statement.

Trump has made past statements indicating that he questions the United States’ approach to China, particularly the policy of recognizing only Beijing and not the government in Taiwan. He has also been critical of a perceived failure by China to assert pressure on North Korea over their increasing nuclear presence.

In early December, Trump had a carefully orchestrated phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. It was reportedly a friendly diplomatic call that incensed Chinese leaders at the time but that former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said sent the message that “the president of the United States [will] talk to whomever he wants if he thinks it’s in the interest of the United States, and nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to.”

English-language newspaper The China Daily, associated closely with the Chinese government’s press office, published an editorial Monday suggesting Trump was “playing with fire” in some of his rhetoric:

If Trump is determined to use this gambit in taking office, a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves.

Also according to the Wall Street Journal, Beijing is reportedly also concerned about a potential trade war and about Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson’s suggestion Chinese access to artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea be blocked if they continue to aggressively claim that area of open water as their own.