BEIJING—President-elect Donald Trump “speaks like a rookie,” China’s state-run media said Monday, describing his suggested use of America’s position on Taiwan as a bargaining chip as “despicable.”
The nationalist tabloid Global Times published an editorial blasting Trump’s strategy and saying China would have a strong response to any reconsideration of the “one China” policy. Since recognizing Beijing in 1979, Washington has maintained only unofficial ties with Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing considers its territory—a status quo that Trump has repeatedly threatened to upend since winning the November election.
“In the past, Trump infuriated us, but now we find him risible,” said the newspaper, which is published by the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece. “With a skyrocketing ascent in his political life, he has been stunningly confident in his ostensible knowledge of the job, though he speaks like a rookie.”
The English-language China Daily ran an editorial Monday accusing Trump of “playing with fire.”
“If Trump is determined to use this gambit on taking office, a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves,” the newspaper said.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Friday that “everything is under negotiation, including ‘one China.'” It was the latest sign that Trump could shake up the U.S.-China relationship, particularly on Taiwan, which China considers a core national interest.
China’s Foreign Ministry responded with a statement Sunday saying the “one China” policy was “non-negotiable.”
“The government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing China,” spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement. “That is the fact acknowledged by the international community and no one can change it”
China was already angered by Trump’s Dec. 2 phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the first time an American president or president-elect has publicly spoken to Taiwan’s leader in nearly four decades. Beijing considers any reference to a separate Taiwanese head of state to be a grave insult.
Trump then said in a television interview that he didn’t feel “bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”
On Sunday, Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, said that “there are no plans to change the one-China policy.”
“But certainly that policy is on the table if China doesn’t also come to the table and work with us on trade, work with us on the South China Sea and what’s happening there,” Priebus said on ABC’s “This Week.”
After attacking China repeatedly during his campaign, Trump has continued to disparage China on his Twitter account over its military buildup in disputed areas of the South China Sea, allegedly manipulating its currency to put American companies at a disadvantage, and not doing enough to curb North Korea’s nuclear program. He has also announced that a new White House trade council will be led by economist Peter Navarro, a sharp critic of Chinese economic policy who wrote a book titled “Death By China.”
Trump told the Journal that he would not label China a currency manipulator as soon as he takes office, though he repeated his contention that China is manipulating the yuan.
So far, Beijing has reiterated its refusal to negotiate on Taiwan and to push for positive co-operation between the two sides, though state-run media have run several strongly worded editorials attacking Trump.
Chinese political observers said Sunday that they expect Beijing’s response to change once Trump is inaugurated next week.
“Trump has not taken office yet, so he is an ordinary person now,” said Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University. “Therefore, there’s no need for China to take his remarks seriously or further respond to what he said.”