Candidate Trump was pretty hard on China, terming the country a “currency manipulator,” which, arguably, it appears to be. He promised that on day one of his presidency, he’d officially label the country as such, which would be his first step toward placing a 45 percent import tariff on Chinese goods. Once in office, Trump took his rhetoric up a notch and shocked the diplomatic world by also threatening to end the United State’s One China policy, which was instated by Richard Nixon as a condition of normalizing relationships between the US and China.
The policy is rhetorical, viewing China and Taiwan as one nation. On the ground, however, the policy is essentially meaningless, with the US still conducting trade with and supplying military aid to Taiwan. For China, however, who still views Taiwan as a breakaway province, this rhetorical concession is the foundation beneath our friendship — and it’s also the third rail running through our relationship. Mess with it and we rewind the clock to 1970.
Obama’s Terrible, Terrible Deal
Trump apologists in the Republican Party were quick to walk back his threats to blow up the One China policy, explaining that their leader was just doing what he does best, throwing out an opening salvo and maneuvering into position for negotiating and deal-making — his signature skill. Our trade relations with China, born in the Nixon administration and amped up and refined under the free-trading Ronald Reagan’s tutelage, are, according to the amnesiac Trump, a “terrible deal” cooked up by “worst president in history,” Barack Obama. Trump’s apocalyptic moves to release military and economic chaos between the US and China, we’re supposed to believe, actually belied skillful bargaining to pressure China to walk back “Obama’s” terrible, terrible deal. An unbelievably bad deal.
But then, after breathing fire in China’s direction for months, that odd little mouth that seems to crawl all over Trump’s face uncharacteristically and unexpectedly…