Sino-US relations

China congratulates Trump – and warns to tread carefully on Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 11:31pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to Donald Trump ­congratulating him on becoming the United States president, the foreign ministry said on Monday, as it warned Washington to abide by the one-China policy.

Trump’s pledge last week to put “America first” has fanned fears that the US will take an isolationist path, leaving China to fill the vacuum. A senior Chinese diplomat said yesterday that China did not want to assume the mantle of world leadership but could be forced to take on that role if others stepped back.

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Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Xi congratulated Trump on his inauguration, but called on Washington to respect the sensitivity of Taiwan issues.

“Healthy, stable and developing relations between China and the US are beneficial to the people of the two countries as well as the whole world,” Hua said.

“On Taiwan, the one-China policy is the premise of ... Sino-US relations. The US government should limit communication ­between the US and Taiwan to an unofficial category.”

Beijing’s stand on territorial sovereignty was firm, Hua said.

Trump irked Beijing last month by having a phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and questioning the validity of the one-China policy.

Beijing also expressed dismay when former Taiwanese premier Yu Shyi-kun led a delegation to Washington for the inauguration.

Trump did not mention China in his inauguration speech on Friday, but vowed to put “America first” in determining US policy.

A White House statement ­released after his speech said Washington would crack down on nations that violated trade agreements, comments seen as a veiled attack against Beijing.

Observers have also been scratching their heads over whether the US will still be eager to maintain its global leadership position, and whether China will take a more prominent role on issues such as climate change.

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Zhang Jun, head of the foreign ministry’s international economics department, said last week that China had no intention of seeking global leadership. “If anyone were to say China is playing a leadership role in the world I would say it’s not China rushing to the front but rather the front runners that have stepped back leaving the place to China,” he said.

“If China is required to play that leadership role then China will assume its responsibilities.”

Additional reporting by Catherine Wong and Reuters