The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

US Navy uss lassen
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.
  • The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say.
  • A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island.
  • China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait.

WASHINGTON — The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say, in a move that could provoke a sharp reaction from Beijing at a time when Sino-US ties are under pressure from trade disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis.

A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

US officials told Reuters that the United States had already examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage once this year but ultimately did not pursue them, perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China.

The last time a US aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, and some US military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.

Another less provocative option would be resuming the periodic, but still infrequent, passages by other US Navy ships through the strait, the latest of which was in July.

The Pentagon declined to comment on any potential future operations, and it was unclear how soon a passage might take place.

Speaking in Beijing, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, urged the United States to prudently handle the Taiwan issue so as to avoid harming bilateral ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive core issue in the China-US relationship,” she said at a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

Trump, who in 2016 broke protocol as president-elect by taking a phone call from Taiwan’s president, has toned down his rhetoric about Taiwan in recent months as he seeks China’s aid in the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

The United States and China are also trying to find their way out of a major trade dispute that has seen the world’s two economic heavyweights threaten tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion.

China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating it from Taiwan.

“They’re turning up the heat,” a fourth US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the US’s view of Chinese activities around Taiwan.

Separately, it now appears unlikely the United States will send top officials to a June 12 dedication ceremony for the new American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan. Washington does not have formal ties with Taipei.

US officials told Reuters that the date clashed with the planned June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but added that there would be another opportunity to commemorate the institute’s unveiling in September.

Case-by-case arms sales

Since taking office, Trump has approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan and angered Beijing by signing legislation encouraging visits by senior US officials to Taiwan. Trump also named John Bolton, known as a strong Taiwan supporter, as his national security adviser.

The fourth US official told Reuters that Washington aimed to change the way it approaches arms sales requests from Taiwan to address them on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to bundling them together.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers at the US-Taiwan Business Council trade association said that moving away from bundling — a practice in place for a decade — would be better for Taipei’s defense needs, treating it more like a regular security partner.

“We get into difficulty when we treat Taiwan differently, which opens the door for the politicization of the [arms sales] process,” Hammond-Chambers said.

Military experts say that the balance of power between Taiwan and China has shifted decisively in China’s favor in recent years and that China could easily overwhelm the island unless US forces came quickly to Taiwan’s aid.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it is unclear whether Washington would want to be dragged into war with China over the island.

Asked about US obligations to Taiwan, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, noted that Washington had sold Taiwan more than $15 billion worth of weaponry since 2010.

“We have a vital interest in upholding the current rules-based international order, which features a strong, prosperous, and democratic Taiwan,” Logan said.

SEE ALSO: US disregards Beijing’s nonsense, says it can take down South China Sea islands

Wake Up World: Government Of ‘The Peoples Republic Of China’ Is No One’s Friend

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

Editor’s Note:Richard Bush was the Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan from 1997 to 2002, based in Washington, D.C.

On the morning of June 12, Taipei time, there will be a ceremony to mark the opening of a new office building in Taiwan’s capital city. But it is not just any office building. It is the new building of the American Institute in Taiwan. With the opening looming, there has been much speculation whether the Trump administration would send of senior official to Taiwan to mark the occasion. That idea has also evoked strong opposition from China.

Author

The AIT opening—and even the name American Institute in Taiwan—is entwined in the “one-China policy” of the United States. When the Carter administration established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, it agreed to terminate diplomatic relations with the government on Taiwan, known as the Republic of China, and to conduct relations with Taiwan on an unofficial basis. Congress created AIT to conduct those unofficial relations. Taiwan has its counterpart mechanism in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

Despite the circumlocutions, it’s no secret that AIT’s Taipei Office works for the U.S. government. In their interactions with Taiwan government agencies, AIT personnel promote U.S. interests and carry out an array of U.S. programs.

Since AIT opened in 1979, the men and women of AIT have worked out of a facility in Taipei that was built in 1950 and used to be the office of the Military Assistance Advisory Group. They have long deserved a new building, and now they are getting it. For Taiwan, moreover, this new, not inexpensive building signifies a strong and enduring American commitment to the island and its people.

China is not happy with the scope and scale of the U.S. relationship with Taiwan, particularly in the security field. If it had its way, it would probably prefer that Washington have a simple trade office in Taipei, as other countries have. But one of the interests on which AIT officers labor is maintaining peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, which should be in China’s interest as well.

Beijing also objects to U.S. actions that suggest that its relationship with Taiwan is actually official. So when reports surfaced that the Trump administration might send a Cabinet-level official to Taiwan for the AIT opening, China undertook a campaign to stop that idea in its tracks, claiming that such an action would violate the “one-China principle.”

It happens that successive administrations have interpreted the U.S. one-China policymuch more flexibly than the strict fashion in which China defines its one-China principle. As long ago as 1992, the George H. W. Bush administration sent Secretary of Commerce Barbara Franklin to visit Taiwan, and later administrations sent people at that level.

Naturally, the Taiwan government and public would appreciate the affirmation that Cabinet-level attendance would represent. Just as naturally, the government and the public would be disappointed if a Cabinet-level head does not attend.

China chose the path of confrontation when conciliation was possible.

Yet it is important to view the administration’s decision on this specific issue in light of the poor state of Taiwan-China relations. China does not like Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s democratically elected president, because it fears that her Democratic Progressive Party will lead Taiwan down the road of legal independence, thus foreclosing its goal of unifying Taiwan. Actually, China’s fears of independence are unfounded. President Tsai has repeatedly said that she will maintain the status quo between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Beijing still chose contention over coexistence, and has taken a number of steps to punish Taiwan for electing President Tsai: stealing away the countries with which Taiwan has diplomatic relations, restricting its role in the international community, conducting military exercises near Taiwan, and so on.

To repeat: China chose the path of confrontation when conciliation was possible. Going back to the 1950s, U.S. administrations have stressed that the peaceful resolution of differences between China and Taiwan is an “abiding interest” of the United States. The Trump administration has reaffirmed that position and made clear that it is China that is currently engaged in destabilizing behavior. It should therefore seize opportunities to signal its opposition to China’s punitive tactics. Sending a senior U.S. official is one of those opportunities.

China not yet ready to invade Taiwan ???

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TAIPEI TIMES)

 

China not yet ready to invade Taiwan

By Ray Song 宋磊

Peter Enav, a former Taiwan correspondent for The Associated Press, on Tuesday last week published an article on the Web site Taiwan Sentinel, entitled: “Taiwan Under the Gun: An Urgent Call to Action,” in which he warned that the three conditions required for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to consider an attack on Taiwan are close to being fulfilled.

Enav believes that as soon as the middle of next year, China’s military will have completed its readiness to the extent where it could decide to launch an invasion of the nation.

The three major conditions, as Enav sees it, are: One, China must feel certain that the “political option for unification” is now impossible; two, China’s military must be ready and able to launch an unimpeded amphibious attack across the Taiwan Strait — and feel confident that it can crush any post-invasion resistance; and three, Beijing must believe the international fallout and economic sanctions following an invasion of Taiwan would not outweigh the gain of unifying the nation with China.

These three conditions tally with the basic criteria for an invasion that have been put forward by Beijing in the past.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has said that China would experience a political and cultural renaissance that could endure for up to 200 years. Implied within this overall goal is a timetable for the unification of Taiwan.

Looking at this timetable, China would not be ready by launch an attack on Taiwan until 2021 at the earliest. In reality, while the PLA’s Rocket Force possesses long-range missile strike capability, China’s military still lacks sufficient transport and lift capability and also still needs to first shore up its core strategic interests in the East and South China seas and further increase the strength of its forces before it can consider invading the nation.

At present, it would be difficult for the PLA to muster sufficient forces to mount a successful invasion. For these reasons, Enav’s warning that the PLA would be ready to attack Taiwan by next year seems somewhat alarmist.

Furthermore, as the recent high-level economic dialogue between the US and China shows, the two countries are still at loggerheads on trade, as they have been for some time.

Economic issues never exist in isolation but are invariably part of a wider political, military and diplomatic picture. If the trade dispute between the US and China is not resolved and the relationship sours, Washington would use the prospect of warships from the US military’s Pacific Fleet forces stopping over in Taiwan to deter Beijing.

US President Donald Trump recently approved a plan by the Pentagon that allows the US Navy to conduct full-year passages through international waters in the South China Sea illegally claimed by China as its own.

The White House clearly intends to use freedom of navigation as a means to respond to Beijing’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. It is also clear that containment of China has already become established US policy. The US would not easily allow the PLA to attack Taiwan.

The US is still the only superpower and, while willing to cooperate with Beijing in many areas, Washington is increasingly wary of China and employs military and diplomatic means to contain it. Competition between the two nations is intensifying, which could benefit Taiwan.

Emboldened China Wields Its Laws to Silence Critics From Abroad

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND ANDY TAI’S GOOGLE PLUS WEB SITE)

 

Asia Pacific

Emboldened China Wields Its Laws to Silence Critics From Abroad

By STEVEN LEE MYERS and CHRIS HORTON

BEIJING — On the morning he disappeared, the activist Lee Ming-cheh crossed from Macau into mainland China to meet with democracy advocates.

It was 177 days later when he reappeared in public, standing in the dock of a courtroom in central China last week, confessing to a conspiracy to subvert the Communist Party by circulating criticism on social media.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Lee’s detainment remain murky, but what has made the case stand out from the many that the Chinese government brings against its critics is that Mr. Lee is not a citizen of China, but rather of Taiwan, the self-governing island over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

The proceedings against Mr. Lee, who is expected to be sentenced as soon as this week, punctuated what critics have warned are China’s brazen efforts to extend the reach of its security forces to stifle what it perceives as threats to its power emanating from overseas.

In recent months alone, China has sought the extradition of ethnic Uighur studentsstudying overseas in Egypt and carried out the cinematic seizure of a billionaire from a Hong Kong hotel in violation of an agreement that allows the former British colony to run its own affairs. The billionaire, Xiao Jianhua, now appears to be a material witness in another politically tinged investigation against the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda.

China abruptly surfaced charges of rape against yet another billionaire, Guo Wengui, after he sought political asylum in the United States, where he has been making sensational accusations about the Communist Party’s leadership. Mr. Guo’s case could become a major test for the Trump administration’s relations with Beijing at a time of tensions over North Korea and trade.

The Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui has sought political asylum in the United States.

JAMES ESTRIN / THE NEW YORK TIMES

“China has been extending its clampdown — its choking of civil society — throughout the world, and often it is attempting this through official channels such as the U.N. or Interpol,” said Michael Caster, a rights campaigner who was a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group. “Unfortunately, they’re very adept at doing it.”

The Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, which provided seminars for lawyers and legal aid for defendants in China, folded last year after the country’s powerful Ministry of State Security arrested and held Mr. Caster’s colleague, Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, for 23 days.

Mr. Caster noted that Interpol’s president, Meng Hongwei, is a veteran of China’s state security apparatus. Human Rights Watch recently reported that China was blocking the work of United Nations agencies investigating rights issues and preventing critics from testifying at hearings, including in one case the leader of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa.

China’s economic and diplomatic clout has meant that few countries are willing or able to do much to challenge its extraterritorial legal maneuvers. Some have even gone along.

And countries as varied as Armenia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Spain and Vietnam have all extradited to China scores of people accused in a spate of telephone swindles targeting Chinese citizens, even though the suspects are, like Mr. Lee, citizens of Taiwan.

“Treating Lee Ming-cheh as a mainland Chinese marks a major watershed,” said Hsiao I-Min, a lawyer at the Judicial Reform Foundation in Taiwan, who accompanied Mr. Lee’s wife from Taiwan to attend the trial.

Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, was arrested in China and held for 23 days last year.

ADAM DEAN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Mr. Lee’s case has added new strain in relations with Taiwan, which have soured since the election last year of a new president, Tsai Ing-wen. China has cut off official communications with Ms. Tsai’s government over her refusal to voice support for what Beijing calls the “1992 consensus,” which holds that the mainland and Taiwan are both part of the same China but leaves each side to interpret what that means.

In response to Mr. Lee’s legal odyssey, Ms. Tsai’s government has been relatively muted. “Our consistent position on this case is that we will do everything in our power to ensure his safe return while protecting the dignity of the nation,” said a spokesman for the presidential administration, Alex Huang.

China and Taiwan had in recent years cooperated on criminal investigations under a protocol that required each to notify the other in cases involving the arrests of its citizens. The Chinese government has recently abandoned such diplomatic niceties, officials in Taiwan say.

Taiwan’s government was notified of Mr. Lee’s arrest only when the public was — 10 days after his detainment in March near Macau, the former Portuguese colony that, like Hong Kong, is a special administrative region of China with its own legal system.

Whatever the veracity of his courtroom confession, Mr. Lee, 42, assumed enormous risk to make contact with rights campaigners inside China. A manager at Wenshan Community College in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, Mr. Lee volunteered for a rights organization called Covenants Watch and often traveled to the mainland.

Mr. Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, learned his case had come to a head when a state-appointed lawyer contacted her this month. She only found out about his court appearance last week in Yueyang, in the southern province of Hunan, from news reports that circulated two days later, according to Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International.

According to excerpts released by the Yueyang Intermediate People’s Court, Mr. Lee entered a guilty plea. He appeared with a Chinese co-defendant, Peng Yuhua, and together they were accused of trying to organize protests using the social media platforms WeChat and QQ, as well as Facebook, which is banned here.

Mr. Lee told the court that watching Chinese state television during his prolonged detention convinced him that he had been deceived by Taiwan’s free news media and was wrong about China’s political system. “These incorrect thoughts led me to criminal behavior,” he said.

Mr. Hsiao, the lawyer from Taiwan, said none of Mr. Lee’s acquaintances had heard of the co-defendant. Mr. Peng testified that together they had established chat groups online and formed a front organization, the Plum Blossom Company, with the aim of fomenting change. Mr. Hsiao said that no such company existed.

“He was a fake,” Mr. Hsiao said of Mr. Peng. “This guy does not really exist. He was playing a role.”

Ms. Lee, too, denounced her husband’s trial as a farce. “Today the world and I together witnessed political theater, as well as the differences between the core beliefs of Taiwan and China,” she said at her hotel in Yueyang, adding that the “norms of expression in Taiwan are tantamount to armed rebellion in China.”

Mr. Lee’s case has echoes of the fate of five booksellers in Hong Kong, four of whom who were spirited out of the semiautonomous city in the fall of 2015 after publishing gossipy material about Chinese political intrigues, which, while legal in Hong Kong, is not in China.

One bookseller, Lee Bo, is a British citizen. Another, Gui Minhai, is a naturalized Swedish citizen; he vanished from his seaside apartment in Pattaya, Thailand, in October 2015 and returned to China in a manner that has not been fully explained. He appeared on state television in January 2016 and said he had voluntarily returned to face punishment for a fatal car accident in 2003. He remains in prison.

“What happened to my father is a much larger issue,” Mr. Gui’s daughter, Angela Gui, who has been campaigning for his release, wrote in an email. “It shows that foreign citizens aren’t safe from Chinese state security, even when they are outside China’s borders. I find it strange that governments aren’t more worried about China’s new self-proclaimed role as world police.”

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Wife of Taiwan activist sees China ‘conspiracy’ behind husband’s arrest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Wife of Taiwan activist sees China ‘conspiracy’ behind husband’s arrest

The wife of a Taiwan activist accused Beijing of “political conspiracy” on Monday after she was barred from traveling to the mainland to support her husband who was detained there last month on suspicion of endangering national security.

The activist, Li Ming-che, is a community college worker known for supporting human rights in China. He went missing while traveling to China on March 19.

More than a week later, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Li had been detained on suspicion on endangering national security but gave no information on his whereabouts.

Li’s wife, Li Ching-yu, had been scheduled to fly to Beijing but told reporters at Taiwan’s international airport her permit to enter the mainland had been canceled.

“I am a weak woman who wants to visit. Is it really necessary for the Chinese government to use such great force to prevent this?” Li said.

“This action confirms to the outside world that there is political conspiracy behind the Chinese government’s arrest of Li Ming-che.”

Li’s detention has put another strain on ties between Taipei and Beijing, which have cooled since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took power last year because she refuses to concede that the island is part of China.

Tsai also leads the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan, a red line for Beijing.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan into its fold, while proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

The DPP said on March 30 Li’s detention would “increase doubts for Taiwanese people traveling to China and affect normal exchanges between people of both sides”.

Taiwan activists have linked Li’s detention to a new law targeting foreign non-governmental organizations in China, which grants powers to police to question organization workers, monitor their finances and regulate their work.

Taiwan citizens use a special entry permit issued by China to travel there because China does not recognize Taiwan passports.

Over the weekend, Chinese state media reported that a letter written by Li Ming-che had been delivered to his family last Friday on humanitarian grounds.

However, according to Li Ching-yu, the letter was a copy that she could not verify was from her husband.

Li said she hoped China’s President Xi Jinping “can make sure justice is served”.

(Reporting by Damon Lin and Fabian Hamacher; Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Donald Trump Is Using 23 Million People In Taiwan As A Trade Bargaining Ploy With China?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Why Donald Trump Really Shouldn’t Play Games with China Over Taiwan

The U.S. President-elect has said the “One China” policy was up for negotiation and dependent on what Beijing does for the U.S. in return

East Asian geopolitics is a tapestry of fictions. Beijing insists Taiwan is part of China, despite the island of 23 million being self-governing for over half-a-century. The constitution of Taiwan — officially called the Republic of China, a legacy of the routed Nationalists (KMT) flight across the Strait in 1949 following China’s civil war — still claims dominion of all of the Chinese mainland and even Mongolia. The U.S. concedes Taiwan is part of China, having broken off diplomatic relations one China policy

with Taipei in 1979, yet is treaty-obliged to sell the island the weapons it uses to protect itself from Beijing.

One can have sympathy for Donald Trump not wanting to partake in such a charade, which is commonly known as the “One China” principle. The U.S. President-elect had the backing of many people in Taiwan when on Dec. 2 he accepted a phone call from its President, Tsai Ing-wen. Owing to “One China,” which was negotiated by an earlier KMT government in Taiwan, it was the first direct contact between the leaders of Taiwan and the U.S for almost four decades. When Beijing cried foul, Trump sent a series of unrepentant tweets, culminating with an interview on Fox on Sunday during which he said “One China” was up for negotiation and dependent on what Beijing does for the U.S. in return.

Read More: ‘Trump Truly Is a Mad Dog’: How Chinese Social Media Melted After the Taiwan Call

“Trump’s taking a more realpolitik approach, saying there are no sacred cows, we won’t be pushed around and everything is on the table,” says Prof. Nick Bisley, an Asia expert at Australia’s La Trobe University.

But Trump should be wary of wielding realpolitik in this land of fictions. Beijing regularly cites the “Taiwan question” as one of its “core interests,” and the topic is toxic even among otherwise politically inert Chinese. On Wednesday, An Fengshan, a spokesman for China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, said, “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted” if the U.S. wavers on “One China.”

For Taiwan, the “One China” policy is partly a millstone, precluding the island from a seat at the U.N. or from joining potentially lucrative free trade groupings. But conversely, the agreement — otherwise known as the “1992 Consensus” — has allowed peaceful ties to flourish across a previously truculent Strait. Today, tourists and exchange students flock in both directions and 40% of Taiwan’s exports go to the mainland. Taiwan has a lot to gain from official recognition but even more to lose. “In the short term the [Taiwan] government seems to be very excited about [Trump addressing ‘One China’],” says Prof. Tang Shaocheng, an international relations expert at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. “But the consequences — the reaction from Beijing — is still unpredictable.”

Donald Trump Angers China With Historic Phone Call to Taiwan’s President
Trump went where no U.S. commander-in-chief had gone since diplomatic relations were restored with China in 1979 — by speaking directly to the President of Taiwan, the island-state of 23 million that is essentially an independent country.

Taiwan would bear the brunt of a metastasizing Sino-U.S. relationship, though Trump has never mentioned what the island’s citizens desire during his bating of the Chinese leadership. Instead, the President-elect has treated the case like a business deal, jostling for the smallest advantage, while needling the world’s second largest economy over trade tariffs and alleged currency manipulation. “Trump is trying to get some more bargaining chips to use later with Beijing,” adds Tang. “Taiwan is just a leverage point for Trump.” And Trump’s actions elsewhere are recasting the rules of the game and further imperiling the island’s people.

Read More: Trump’s Doubting of ‘One China’ Has Sparked Both Hope and Fear in Taiwan

The other headline of Trump’s nascent foreign policy is warming ties with Russia. Trump repeatedly praised President Vladmir Putin during his presidential campaign, flying in the face of the international condemnation prompted by Moscow’s 2014 annexing of the Crimea, not to mention its steadfast support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. On Wednesday, Trump named his candidate for Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chief with a long history of deals with the Kremlin, and who was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013. The nod raised eyebrows even within Trump’s own party.

“I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was,” Sen. John McCain told Fox News on Saturday. “But I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me.”

What exactly Trump hopes to gain from courting Putin is unclear. The real estate mogul may have been elected on promises to put “America first,” but Putin is a Russian nationalist of the deepest dye and unlikely to yield much of consequence to Washington. One theory is that Trump is maneuvering for a “reverse Nixon” strategy: teaming up with Moscow to isolate Beijing, in a mirror of U.S. policy to counter the Soviet Union in the 1970s. However, that is unlikely to bear fruit. According to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank, Beijing and Moscow have never been as close as they are today. “I would call them a ‘détente’ state of relations,” says Trenin. “That’s somewhere between a strategic partnership and a full-fledged alliance.”

Read More: China Says Donald Trump’s Suggestion of Closer U.S.-Taiwan Ties Are ‘Out of the Question’

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s seminal One Belt, One Road economic strategy — a rekindling of the iconic land and maritime Silk Road though infrastructure and development projects — is dependent on rosy relations with Russia and particularly Central Asia, which is largely beholden to the Kremlin. Today, Russia is the world’s top oil exporter — accounting for 70% of all national exports — and its top customer is China, which bought 22 million tons in the first half of this year. Squabbles over disputed territory in Central Asia have been solved with surprising prudence and a raft of pipeline and other infrastructure deals have been struck. “Relations are robust and I can only see them getting stronger,” says Trenin.

By contrast, the U.S. has little to offer Russia. But Trump’s fawning of Putin does have an effect. Trump announced Tillerson’s appointment just as Assad’s Russian-backed troops retook Aleppo, displacing thousands and reportedly slaughtering scores of innocents. But Beijing is most acutely aware that the Kremlin suffered few repercussion from its seizing of Crimea, other than economic sanctions it shrugged aside (and Trump could soon lift them at a stoke of his pen.) If Trump wants to put ethics aside and talk realpolitik: What would the U.S. do if China decided to retake Taiwan?

Read More: Donald Trump Details Plan to Rewrite Global Trade Rules

To rephrase: What could it do? The U.S. military is stronger that China’s overall, though a war in China’s coastal waters would be bloody and impossible to win. The Philippines, traditionally America’s staunchest ally, has become antagonistic with Washington and chummy with China since new President Rodrigo Duterte took office. There are also resurgent calls to removed U.S. troops from bases in South Korea and Japan, who both list China as their largest trading partners. Beijing has built islands — dubbed unsinkable aircraft carriers — in the South China Sea, which new satellite images indicate contain significant weaponry. Not to forget that Trump campaigned on drawing down commitments on costly wars overseas.

“Xi is a tough guy and has shown unprecedented tolerance for Trump’s arrogance,” says Prof. Shi Yinhong, director of the Center on American Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. “But if Trump still wants to mess with China’s core interests after he becomes President, Sino-U.S. ties will suffer the greatest damage since [the resumption of diplomatic relations]. China will not compromise.”

Trump thinks he is being clever by shaking up the status quo in East Asia, but there is a reason why all six preceding U.S. Presidents have firmly stuck to the convenient fiction of “One China.” In a game of true realpolitik when everything is on the table, China knows exactly what it wants — and it also now knows what it can probably get away with.

—With reporting by Zhang Chi / Beijing

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