In the business world one of the first lessons we used to pound into our deal-makers (salesmen, contract negotiators, purchasers, …. ) was that it was “silence” that defined what was really “non-negotiable”. Bringing up such matters or even responding to any mention about what was “non-negotiable” was self-defeating and, in itself, put that matter on the table. Merely saying that something was “non-negotiable” was, in itself, sufficient for the opposing party to always try to keep it on the agenda.
Trump is bringing a business, deal-making approach to politics which even veteran diplomats are finding uncomfortable and incomprehensible. China’s Foreign Ministry has just declared that “One China” is “non negotiable”. That is a massive blunder by their conventional diplomats and bureaucrats. They have just ensured that in any future US/China talks, “One China” will always be present, even if only in pre-talk talks where China tries to keep it off the agenda.
By responding to Trump’s acceptance of a phone call from Taiwan’s president after his victory and a few tweets which followed his attacks on China’s economic “cheating” during the campaign, China has effectively just put “One China” on the table.
China has warned Donald Trump that he has no chance of striking a deal with Beijing involving Taiwan’s political status following the US president-elect’s latest controversial intervention on the subject.
The Chinese foreign ministry told Trump that the US’s longstanding “One China” policy, by which it does not challenge Beijing’s claim over the self-ruled island, was the political basis for all Sino-US relations.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Saturday Trump said all options were on the table as he considered how he might reshape Washington’s relations with China, a country he accused of deliberately devaluing its currency in order to hamstring US businesses.
“Everything is under negotiation, including ‘One China’,” Trump said, referring to the US’s longstanding diplomatic decision not to challenge Beijing’s claim that Taiwan, an independently and democratically-ruled island, is part of its territory.
China’s foreign ministry hit back in a statement advising Trump, a billionaire property tycoon who has claimed “deals are my art form”, that he would never be able to achieve such a deal.
“There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable region of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing China,” spokesperson Lu Kang was quoted as saying.
“The ‘One China’ principle, which is the political foundation of the China-US relations, is non-negotiable.”
If this was a chess game, Trump’s tweets are giving him the first move with the white pieces. In chess parlance he has the “tempo”. So far, the Chinese – who are more conservative than is sometimes thought – have not quite caught onto the game that is being played. It is negotiation by tweets. They may well get the US to continue to accept “One China”. But it is going to cost them something else.
Trump has not even entered office and negotiations have started.