On Friday, Trump toyed around with the “one China” policy again:
Asked if he supported the One China policy on Taiwan, Mr. Trump said: “Everything is under negotiation including One China.”
Trump should know that something can be negotiated only when both parties are willing to talk about it. As far as Beijing is concerned, there is nothing to negotiate here, and there is nothing that the U.S. could offer them that would cause them to accept a change to the status quo. There are always some things that can’t be bargained for and some things that the other side will never accept (and some that they are prepared to fight for), and Trump either doesn’t understand this or he just wants to provoke China for the sake of provoking them. Poking China in the eye over this issue in particular continues to be remarkably ill-advised, and it is setting the stage for an acrimonious relationship between the U.S. and China in the coming year.
His remark does prompt a couple questions: why should the “one China” policy be revised, and how could it possibly benefit the U.S. to reopen a question that has been effectively settled for almost forty years? The current arrangement has helped maintain peace and stability in East Asia for decades, and attempting to change it potentially brings with significant costs that the U.S. isn’t prepared to pay and shouldn’t want to pay. There is already more than enough uncertainty about what Trump might do abroad, and the U.S. risks sparking an unnecessary crisis with China by deliberately creating more. Trump often says that the U.S. needs to be more unpredictable, but in our dealings with other major powers there is nothing less desirable than an approach to policy that leads the other government to miscalculate and overreact.