ALTHOUGH Beijing’s responses to Donald Trump’s protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last week have been somewhat muted, the diplomatic gaffe and the U.S. president-elect’s subsequent Twitter tirade has triggered quite a storm in China.
Trump-bashing appeared to be the theme of the day in many Chinese media outlets, with numerous opinion pieces dedicated to the escalating row that has rattled both political observers and policymakers in the U.S.
One headline in the Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily says: “Trump’s irrational China bashing shows his ignorance of China.”
A commenter on the article described it as “laughable” that Trump, a famous real estate magnate and billionaire businessman, “does not know how business actually works”.
“He blames China for stealing American jobs. The fact is, American businessmen have always outsourced or bought goods from overseas.
“American manufacturers sent work to countries that could give them the best price advantage and a higher profit margin. For the last sixty years, American consumers have enjoyed goods at affordable prices,” the commenter wrote.
“Now these same goods previously made in China are being sourced to Vietnam, Mauritius, Pakistan, India and so on. Also for better price advantage. It’s not China’s or any other countries’ fault.”
Another commenter said China “knows a fool when they see one”, before quipping: “They see one.”
According to the AFP, People’s Daily also front-paged an opinion piece in its overseas edition that mocked Trump’s rallying call to “make America great again”, saying: “Provoking friction and messing up China-US relations won’t help ‘make America great again’.”
Global Times, another popular Chinese media outlet, similarly played up many anti-Trump articles. In one opinion piece, the writer said Trump’s China-bashing tweet was merely a cover for his actual intent – “to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it”.
“Trump wants to revive U.S. economy, but he knows that his country is not as competitive as it used to be.
“We must confront Trump’s provocations head-on, and make sure he won’t take advantage of China at the beginning of his tenure. The initial period will set the foundation for the Sino-US relationship in the next four years,” the writer said.
A companion commentary said that in time, Trump would learn not to “cross China” and that if he insisted on cosying up to Taiwan, a “fierce competition” between Beijing and Washington would ensue. The piece included an illustration of an eagle flinging rocks at an angry-looking panda bear, in an apparent reference to the U.S. and China.
On social media, Chinese Internet users had some advice for their leaders amid the row.
“Don’t put our fate in the hands of others! No matter who is the US president, they won’t treat China well,” one user wrote, according to a screenshot posted by Global Times on Twitter.
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) December 5, 2016
Another user mocked Trump, saying the U.S. president-elect “will rule the country by Twitter.”
Apparently responding to these insults, Trump took again to the social media platform on Tuesday, claiming he would not need to rely on Twitter if the media treated him better.
“If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to “tweet”. Sadly, I don’t know if that will ever happen!” he wrote.
If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to "tweet." Sadly, I don't know if that will ever happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2016
Meanwhile, the White House has sought to reassure China amid the backlash over Trump’s protocol-breaking call with Tsai and his Twitter post criticising Chinese economic and military policy.
According to Reuters, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that senior National Security Council officials spoke twice with Chinese officials over the weekend, reassuring them of Washington’s commitment to the “One China” policy and to “reiterate and clarify the continued commitment of the United States to our longstanding China policy.”
Earnest reportedly pointed out that the policy has been in place for 40 years, and is focused on preserving stability and peace in the strait separating China and Taiwan. This, he added, is in the U.S. interests.
“If the president-elect’s team has a different aim, I’ll leave it to them to describe,” he said.
“The Chinese government in Beijing placed an enormous priority on this situation, and it’s a sensitive matter. Some of the progress that we have made in our relationship with China could be undermined by this issue flaring up,” he said.
Trump triggered upset when he accepted a call from Tsai last Friday. The phone call was said to be the first ever by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwan leader since 1979 when President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China and acknowledged Taiwan as part of “one China.”
Beijing reportedly lodged a diplomatic protest on Saturday over the matter but appeared to blame Taiwan for the exchange and not Trump. Some reports also suggested that the call was a mere oversight on the part of Trump, who is a real estate mogul and billionaire businessman, but a novice in foreign policy.
Trump, however, raised eyebrows again on Sunday when he lashed out at China directly in two Twitter postings, accusing Beijing of manipulating currency, unfairly taxing U.S. products and taking military control of the South China Sea.
“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!” he wrote.