China issued its loudest semi-official response to Trump's suggestion that he will use the "One China" policy as a bargainining chip.
The first, and more official one, came from China's ambassador to the United States who said on Wednesday that Beijing would never bargain with Washington over issues involving its national sovereignty or territorial integrity. Ambassador Cui Tiankai, speaking to executives of top U.S. companies, said China and the United States needed to work to strengthen their relationship. "The political foundation of China-U.S. relations should not be undermined. It should be preserved," Cui said. "And basic norms of international relations should be observed, not ignored, certainly not be seen as something you can trade off," he said. "And indeed, national sovereignty and territorial integrity are not bargaining chips. Absolutely not. I hope everybody would understand that."
While he did not specifically mention Taiwan, or Trump's comments last weekend that the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its nearly four-decade policy of recognizing that Taiwan is part of "one China", it was heard loud and clear.
The second, and more worrisome warning, came from China's influential state-run tabloid, one which Beijing tends to use for populist "trial balloon" purposes, the Global Times according to which China should take the lead in deciding the island's future. In the op-ed, the authors say “it might be time for the Chinese mainland to reformulate its Taiwan policy” and that Beijing should plan to take Taiwan by force and make swift preparations for a military incursion. The article urged China to rebalance its stance towards Taiwan to "make the use of force as a main option" and carefully prepare for possible moves toward independence.
It cautioned that the chance of peaceful unification “will only slip away” if the mainland doesn’t increase pressure and that "the military status quo across the Taiwan Straits needs to be reshaped" to punish the current Taiwanese administration’s "destruction of the political status quo in cross-Straits ties."
The belligerent tone continued, urging that “once Taiwan independence forces violate the Anti-Secession Law, the Chinese mainland can in no time punish them militarily”
It warned that “the tacit understanding and hidden rules made between China and the U.S. over the Taiwan Straits can hardly be respected for long.”
Chinese officials have already used less drastic “punishments”, such as limiting the number of mainland tourists to Taiwan and hinting at curtailing investments.
As the Guardian adds, the threat of military action has loomed over Taiwan’s population since the 1950s. In the most dramatic confrontation, China fired missiles into the waters separating it from Taiwan in the run-up to the first free elections in 1996. In response, the US sailed an aircraft carrier through the strait in a show of solidarity.
In the Global Times op-ed, the authors warn that "if the Chinese mainland won't pile on more pressure over realizing reunification by using force, the chance of peaceful unification will only slip away. Independent forces on the island publicly believe that time is on their side, because Taiwan people's recognition of their Chinese identity is gradually decreasing and against such a backdrop, they can turn the tables with the help of international forces."
It concludes as belligerently as it began: "The future of Taiwan must not be shaped by the DPP and Washington, but by the Chinese mainland. It is hoped that peace in the Taiwan Straits won't be disrupted. But the Chinese mainland should display its resolution to recover Taiwan by force. Peace does not belong to cowards."
The problem is that Donald Trump most likely agrees with the final statement, which is why what until now has been only a war of words for decades, may soon heat up substanitally.