Did President-elect Donald Trump turn a 10-minute phone call with the president of Taiwan into a Hellfire missile, instantly vaporizing the US' "One China" policy? Of course not.
This is a riddle inside an enigma. Let's start with a cool-headed interpretation, as published in a report by the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Beijing's Renmin University, which for three years has been advising the Chinese leadership.
Yang Qijing, the author of the report, cuts to the chase: "The unspoken words behind 'Make America Great Again!' is that China's economy, especially its manufacturing industry, is making the US not so great as before...So we should not question [the determination of the] Trump administration to mobilize any political, economic and military resources to protect and advance US economic interest, or even make it its first priority."
In a nutshell, Taiwan will be used as a Trump bargaining chip to close some package deal with China.
Now for the hardline interpretation, as voiced by the Global Times, which in a popular, no-holds-barred way, is always allowed to formulate out loud what the Beijing leadership is discussing behind closed doors.
An editorial with shades of The Sopranos states, "Beijing will never drag out an ignoble existence by paying into a protection racket. The strength gap between China and the US for the moment is the narrowest in history. What reason do we have to accept a most unfair and humiliating deal from Trump?"
Is it hubris -- as in the "narrowest strength gap in history"? Not really. The Global Times is suggesting a Sun Tzu maneuver; China "should dare to make surprise moves and create a new pattern over the relationship with the US - while you play your game, I play mine."
So expect Chinese President Xi Jinping to play the game at a whole new level.The meaning of "One China"
Last Sunday, on Fox News, Trump made the strategic mistake of laying all his cards on the table, stressing, "I fully understand the 'one China policy,' but I don't know why we have to be bound by a 'one China policy' unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."
So Beijing has duly registered the message: Taiwan is now officially a bargaining chip.
Trump also said, "we're being hurt very badly by China with devaluation; with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don't tax them; with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn't be doing; and, frankly, with not helping us at all with North Korea."