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Politics & Law

US Vice President Pence’s ‘remarks’ on China hollow out US-China relation – except the Taiwan issue


Can you see the difference of Wang Yi’s faces between these two photos?
US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Beijing on 8 Oct 2018. The photo on the left is from Reuters and the right is from China News.

Vice President Pence’s speech on Oct 4 has delivered a clear cut-off line of the policy orientation towards China between Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine and those of past administrations since Nixon.

Perhaps, one of the decisive factors impacting a young elite’s future success, worldwide speaking, in the coming 20 years is whether he/she is able to interpret this fundamental change correctly and thereafter act wisely.

Before I discuss this new era of the US-China and TransAtlantic-EurAsia competitions which are rooted from the well-justified Trump-Pence adoption of the Offensive Realism concepts and evidenced by the Clause 32 stipulated in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, in my future weekly commentaries here, let us focus on Beijing’s immediate reactions first.

In the English statement, Beijing’s official tone remains soft, “saying that China and the United States should follow the right path of win-win cooperation, rather than go astray toward conflict and confrontation.” It basically repeats the usual rhetoric and does not highlight anything special.

In the Chinese statement, however, the tone is stronger and out of the 238 Chinese characters explaining Beijing’s positions on trade and geopolitics, as many as 112 characters (almost half) are about Taiwan (the characters highlighted by me):

王毅闡述了中方在中美經貿摩擦、台灣、南海等問題上的原則立場。強調貿易戰解決不了問題,中方仍願與美方通過談判解決問題,但必須在平等、誠信和嚴肅的基礎上進行。中國完全尊重所有國家自身的選擇,從來不會干預其他國家的內政,在這件事情上,我們光明磊落,問心無愧。中方敦促美方恪守一個中國原則和中美三個聯合公報規定,停止與台灣的官方往來和軍事聯繫,停止向台灣地區出售武器,停止無理干涉那些與中國已經或希望建交的國家,切實約束和限制“台獨”勢力的發展,以實際行動維護中美關係和台海和平穩定。

It says that the US must abide by the ‘One China Policy’, stop official contact with Taiwan, stop selling weapons to Taiwan, stop interfering into those countries wishing to drop official relationship with Taiwan, and contain those forces which instigate Taiwan’s independence.

Reuters’ report also illuminates this feature as it says “…their remarks (between Pompeo and Wang Yi) before journalists at the start of their meeting … were unusually pointed. In response to Wang’s comments, Pompeo said, ‘The issues that you characterized, we have a fundamental disagreement’…”

In short, Beijing’s reactions carry at least three messages:

First, Beijing is not really upset about the trade frictions, tariffs etc. Perhaps, they do not care anymore as Beijing has realized that the terms of trade cannot return to the old days. China has prepared itself to go through at least a decade of hardship — an economy suffering from the US tariffs and attempt of TransAtlantic isolation by Clause 32.

Second, Beijing still avoids political face-to-face or neck-to-neck fights against the United States, at least not in front of the global audience.

Third, nevertheless, Beijing tries to deter Washington from assisting Taipei when the unification, be it peaceful or military, is in due process.

To Beijing, what matters between its relation with Washington is merely Taiwan. With less trade volume, fewer cultural exchange, rarer political cooperation at the global level such as G20, UN, WHO etc … they will mind their own business in their liberal and illiberal zones respectively.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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