U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed Washington's "One China" policy on Thursday in his first conversation with Xi Jinping, in an apparent effort to ease tensions after angering Beijing by questioning the policy that underpins Sino-U.S. relations.
Diplomatic sources in Beijing say China has been nervous about Xi being left humiliated in the event a call with Trump goes wrong and the details are leaked to the US media.
Beijing pushed back swiftly against Trump, indicating that scuttling One China was a non-option and declaring that if the policy was ever placed on the negotiating table, talks over all other issues would immediately come to end.
The call was described as "extremely cordial", and the readout released by the White House said: "representatives of the United States and China will engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest". The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our "one China" policy.
China wants cooperation with the U.S. on trade, investment, technology, energy, and infrastructure, as well as strengthening coordination on worldwide matters to jointly protect global peace and stability, Xi said.
Xi said he appreciated Trump's stressing that the U.S. government adheres to the one-China policy, adding that the policy is the political basis of China-U.S. relations.
Even though Mr. Trump has changed his stance towards the one-China policy, this does not necessarily mean he will capitulate to China on other matters, nor that he and Mr. Xi will be able to work together constructively.
The White House said earlier this week that Trump had sent a letter to Xi, weeks after receiving a letter of congratulations from the leader of the Asian giant. The US cut formal ties with Taiwan in 1979. He made much of how outrageously China had taken advantage of the United States and its inept leadership, especially involving currency manipulations and lop-sided trade deals that always benefited China to the US detriment. Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University and an adviser to the government, told the New York Times that Mr. Trump would be regarded as one, having "lost his first fight" with China's leader.
January 13, 2017 - Trump tells The Wall Street Journal, "Everything is under negotiation, including 'one China.'" The Chinese foreign ministry, in turn says Taiwan is "non-negotiable".
"If he continues with this once he becomes president then there's no saying what we'll do", the source said.
"Trump did not state any specific definition of the one-China policy, so it isn't clear what he agreed to", she said. Such speculation was effectively killed last week when Mr. Trump took the 180-degree turn on China in his first telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. "I believe we will all eventually, and probably very much sooner than a lot of people understand or think, we will be on a level playing field, because that's the only way it's fair", he said.
It is therefore highly likely that Trump opted to return to the "One China" principle after a rethinking about the relative priorities of the domestic and foreign policy agendas of his administration.
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