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Commentary: Petty moves won’t affect big picture of China-US relationship

(People's Daily Online)    16:57, December 05, 2016

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump had a conversation with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen over the phone on Dec. 2. The power of this incident to attract so much public attention rests with the phone call itself, regardless of the content.

The phone call was despicable in nature. It not only violated the One China policy, which has long been maintained by the U.S. government, it also broke the tradition of U.S. presidents and president-elects avoiding direct contact with Taiwanese leaders since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the U.S. It penetrated to the heart of China-U.S. ties.

The phone call came at a sensitive moment. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became the ruling party again in Taiwan this year, disavowing the 1992 Consensus and generating a huge blow to the eight-year stretch of peaceful and promising relations across the Taiwan Strait. Moreover, it remains a mystery whether China-U.S. relations will continue smoothly under Trump’s presidency. This question concerns not only China, but also the entire international community.

How will things develop after the phone call? Taiwanese affairs are of great importance to Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity. This issue is a core interest of China, and it is also the most important and sensitive issue among many issues in the China-U.S. relationship. 

Because of the great importance of the Taiwan issue, the One China policy remains the political foundation of bilateral ties between China and the U.S. History has shown us that good management of the Taiwan issue can predict stable development of the China-U.S. relationship, as well as good cooperation between the countries. Otherwise, the bilateral relationship will suffer; it will have a negative impact on China-U.S. relations, regardless of the U.S. government’s original intentions.

Some American experts urge people not to overanalyze this phone call, as Trump is still a common citizen without any public service record; for this reason, his current actions cannot represent a major adjustment of government policies toward Taiwan. Still, Trump’s unscrupulous actions have set off alarms for the development of bilateral ties. China will surely be on guard.

Given that Trump hasn’t yet been inaugurated, this incident can be counted as nothing but a despicable and petty move. Nevertheless, political influencers in both the U.S. and Taiwan intend to blow it out of portion. DPP, pro-independence citizens and U.S. conservatives couldn’t wait to resume the old ruse of “manipulating Taiwan to influence China.”

Based on the tweets that Trump posted after the phone call, it seems he didn’t realize how serious the consequences were. Many more “petty moves” are likely to occur under Trump’s watch if the situation continues unchecked. Instead, it is necessary to emphasize the common sense in the bilateral relationship between China and the U.S. 

Trump and his transition team should realize that making trouble for China-U.S. ties is making troubles for themselves. Trump’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.” However, considering the size and increasing mutual reliance of both countries, creating troubles for China won’t make the U.S. “great.” Instead, such petty actions will only damage mutual trust and future cooperation, doing the U.S. more harm than good. Making China an enemy will actually block America’s path to future greatness.

The “America first” strategy cannot be achieved by harming the core interests of China. Though China and the U.S. do compete with each other in some fields, the common interests and cooperation of both countries will always come first. Both nations, as well as the international community, hope to avoid strategic confrontation, instead joining hands to face global challenges.

Though petty moves can change nothing in the big picture of China-U.S. ties, a growing number of such moves can hinder the bilateral relationship in a major way. This is an issue that Trump and his transition team should take very seriously. 

(Written by Hua Yiwen, an expert on international affairs.) 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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