Trump’s China call is a deliberate overreach

Readability

Trump's China call is a deliberate overreach

trump_china
Trump’s recent phone call with Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-​Wen has sparked a not too sur­pris­ing response from Beijing:

“We must point out, there’s is only one China in the world and Tai­wan is an insep­a­ra­ble part of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory,” read a state­ment posted on the Chi­nese For­eign Ministry’s web­site Sat­ur­day afternoon.

Any­one who has been watch­ing Chinese-​American rela­tion­ships in the past decade isn’t sur­prised by this. To an Amer­i­can, Tai­wan has been de-​facto sep­a­rated by China, and many peo­ple don’t under­stand why they don’t just give it up at this point.

trump_taiwan

The biggest prob­lem with this think­ing is that China has sold itself on the reuni­fi­ca­tion with Tai­wan. It’s not just a lot of press, it’s writ­ten into their con­sti­tu­tion:

Tai­wan is part of the sacred ter­ri­tory of the People’s Repub­lic of China. It is the lofty duty of the entire Chi­nese peo­ple, includ­ing our com­pa­tri­ots in Tai­wan, to accom­plish the great task of reuni­fy­ing the motherland.

To put it into Amer­i­can per­spec­tive, it would be like giv­ing Florida back to Spain, despite it being an Amer­i­can state for so long.

Although the phone call appears almost ran­dom, I’m guess­ing it’s not, and that it’s a delib­er­ate over­reach by Trump. He knows that Pres­i­dent Obama has too often got­ten the snub by China. China plays the long game, and doesn’t delib­er­ately piss peo­ple off unless it feels it has the upper hand. After watch­ing the US fum­ble for­eign pol­icy with China and give them essen­tially what they want, China feels like it can push the US around to a cer­tain extent.

Trump gets bet­ter deals nego­ti­at­ing from a posi­tion of power. If he approached China in a nor­mal man­ner, they would seize upon every diplo­matic way they could to under­mine his legit­i­macy as Pres­i­dent. So instead, he hits them between the eyes by pound­ing on a very sen­si­tive diplo­matic button.

I pre­dict the following:

  • China will do some­thing to show they still “con­trol” Tai­wan. A mil­i­tary exer­cise, shoot off mis­siles, cyber attack…something like that. Enough to get atten­tion, but small enough to be diplo­mat­i­cally writ­ten off by the US if they want to.
  • This action will let China reas­sure its peo­ple, and plenty of peo­ple will advise Trump to just let it go.
  • Trump won’t, because he knows if he does, he starts off at a place of weak­ness. So, he’ll do some­thing out of the box that will scare the Chinese:
    • He could dis­man­tle the alliance China has built up over the Asian Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment Bank. If the US stops the UN from help­ing the bank, it would be a mas­sive blow to Chi­nese pride. Trump could selec­tively woo coun­tries away from the bank and leave China hold­ing a large bag of debt.
    • He could con­duct a mil­i­tary exer­cise that would scare China. A free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion drive-​by would be too lame. If Pres­i­dent Trump prac­ticed a mar­itime block­ade of China, and delib­er­ately built an alliance (think Japan, Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, Viet­nam and Indone­sia, all of whom have rea­sons to hate China), it could rat­tle the Chi­nese. They want to win in a short, sharp con­flict, and know that a long, drawn out block­ade could stran­gle them in the long run.
    • He could buy off Chi­nese over­seas invest­ment. China has put con­sid­er­able money in African and Asian coun­tries to try and break out of the First Island Chain. Trump is the mas­ter deal maker, and if he dis­man­tled those deals one by one, it would dam­age the inter­na­tional image that China wants to portray.

Make no mis­take, Trump is walk­ing into the China-​Taiwan sit­u­a­tion delib­er­ately, and it’ll be inter­est­ing to see what he comes up with to nego­ti­ate from a posi­tion of strength.


This post rep­re­sents the views of the author and does not rep­re­sent the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy, or any other organization’s viewpoints.


You should hit up Da Tip Jar, and check out my blog while you’re at it.

trump_china
Trump’s recent phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen has sparked a not too surprising response from Beijing:

“We must point out, there’s is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” read a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website Saturday afternoon.

Anyone who has been watching Chinese-American relationships in the past decade isn’t surprised by this.  To an American, Taiwan has been de-facto separated by China, and many people don’t understand why they don’t just give it up at this point.

trump_taiwan

The biggest problem with this thinking is that China has sold itself on the reunification with Taiwan.  It’s not just a lot of press, it’s written into their constitution:

Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People’s Republic of China. It is the lofty duty of the entire Chinese people, including our compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the great task of reunifying the motherland.

To put it into American perspective, it would be like giving Florida back to Spain, despite it being an American state for so long.

Although the phone call appears almost random, I’m guessing it’s not, and that it’s a deliberate overreach by Trump.  He knows that President Obama has too often gotten the snub by China.  China plays the long game, and doesn’t deliberately piss people off unless it feels it has the upper hand.  After watching the US fumble foreign policy with China and give them essentially what they want, China feels like it can push the US around to a certain extent.

Trump gets better deals negotiating from a position of power.  If he approached China in a normal manner, they would seize upon every diplomatic way they could to undermine his legitimacy as President.  So instead, he hits them between the eyes by pounding on a very sensitive diplomatic button.

I predict the following:

  • China will do something to show they still “control” Taiwan.  A military exercise, shoot off missiles, cyber attack…something like that.  Enough to get attention, but small enough to be diplomatically written off by the US if they want to.
  • This action will let China reassure its people, and plenty of people will advise Trump to just let it go.
  • Trump won’t, because he knows if he does, he starts off at a place of weakness.  So, he’ll do something out of the box that will scare the Chinese:
    • He could dismantle the alliance China has built up over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.  If the US stops the UN from helping the bank, it would be a massive blow to Chinese pride.  Trump could selectively woo countries away from the bank and leave China holding a large bag of debt.
    • He could conduct a military exercise that would scare China.  A freedom of navigation drive-by would be too lame.  If President Trump practiced a maritime blockade of China, and deliberately built an alliance (think Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, all of whom have reasons to hate China), it could rattle the Chinese.  They want to win in a short, sharp conflict, and know that a long, drawn out blockade could strangle them in the long run.
    • He could buy off Chinese overseas investment.  China has put considerable money in African and Asian countries to try and break out of the First Island Chain.  Trump is the master deal maker, and if he dismantled those deals one by one, it would damage the international image that China wants to portray.

Make no mistake, Trump is walking into the China-Taiwan situation deliberately, and it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with to negotiate from a position of strength.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other organization’s viewpoints.


You should hit up Da Tip Jar, and check out my blog while you’re at it.