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Beijing to Trump: Tread Lightly

With the Trump administration reaffirming its intention to block Chinese access to islands in the South China Sea, Beijing is wasting no time laying down some red lines of its own. In a rare English-language interview with NBC News, a senior spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Lu Kang, sent a series of strong warnings to the new administration:

“There might be a difference” of opinion regarding who has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea, “but that’s not for the United States” to get involved in, Lu Kang, a senior official with the Chinese foreign ministry, told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. […]

“That’s not international territory, that’s Chinese territory,” Lu said, insisting that China has every right to build whatever it wants on the islands. […]

Lu was especially emphatic about President Trump’s position on Taiwan.

“This issue touches upon China’s core interests. By no means is this something that can be negotiated, or [used] as a bargaining chip,” Lu said.

Lu also reaffirmed Beijing’s non-negotiable One China policy and stated that China does not want a trade war, but “it’s not only up to us. That needs efforts from both sides.”

Beijing has clearly been rattled by recent comments from the new administration, especially Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing statement that Chinese access to its islands in the South China Sea would “not be allowed.” That stance was largely reaffirmed by Sean Spicer at a press briefing on Monday. “If those islands are, in fact, in international waters and not part of China proper,” said Spicer, “yeah, we’ll make sure we defend international interests from being taken over by one country.”

China’s latest comments—perhaps delivered via a television interview as a means of getting them directly to a President who reportedly enjoys watching it—seem geared toward talking Trump down from his maximalist stances. But if the first few days of his presidency are any indication, Trump has little to no inclination to backtrack. If the dynamic holds could set up Beijing and Washington for a serious collision course in the South China Sea.

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  • Beauceron

    I happen to agree with the Chinese on this one.

    If China’s neighbors think China is seizing their islands (and I think they are), well then it’s up to them to dispute it with China. Not us.

    Regarding a trade war, China has never had anything other than what you could call a “China First” policy. They insist on being able to participate in everyone else’s markets, but tightly restrict their own. That should be stood up to.

    • RedWell

      Not to be melodramatic, but that’s what the Brits and French said about Czechoslovakia. This isn’t exactly analogous, but I would be careful about simply writing off the area to Chinese control.

      • Beauceron

        I don’t disagree with you.
        But I think our “allies” have a bad habit of looking at us and saying, in effect, “Look what they’re doing, big guy. You gonna let them get away with that?” And in we charge.
        China’s seizing of island’s in the South China sea is primarily an issue for the countries in the region opposed to it. We can, and should, back them (short of war). But we should not lead the effort. This is, for me, an example of where the US should “lead from behind,” as Obama put it.

        • f1b0nacc1

          The difference here is that (unlike Europe, for instance) the front-line states in Asia are actually taking steps to defend themselves.

          • Beauceron

            That’s an excellent point— but they’re still doing what Europeans do: pushing us out front.
            I suppose I have become wary of playing World Cop. This does not mean that I think unilateral action should never occur. Sometimes we have to act on our own. It doesn’t mean I am an isolationist. I want world cooperation. But I largely see the SCS competition as one where we should not be leading the battle. We should support our allies in their battle, but that means standing behind them.
            I am particularly worried about Trump picking fights we don’t need to be in, to be honest.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Yes, being the GloboCop(tm) isn’t fun, but world cooperation isn’t coming anytime soon, if ever. I prefer the British model from the 19th century, which is well suited to a maritime nation such as our own. The idea that we should be doffing our caps and tugging our forelocks to a collection of third-world kleptocrats like the UN is obnoxious to me, and NATO (a collection of Sir Humphreys with only marginally better.military potential) is not much better. ‘America First’ is fine with me, though we shouldn’t be unwilling to take a stand where our national interests are at stake. The SCS is one of those areas, but we had best be smart about how we go about engaging in confrontation. I have mentioned a few options in the past…

            Regarding Trump, I am not ready to embrace him just yet, but I get the impression that he is more likely to rattle the cage of our potential advesaries as a negotiating ploy than actually start a fight. In any event, we will see soon enough….

            Cheer up my friend….we have actually won a few rounds here, and there is at least some hope!

          • Disappeared4x

            I need a few more days before this real world scenario plays out, to read the next 600 pages of “Threat Vector”, the 2012 Tom Clancy fiction where China decides to militarily take over the South China Sea, and implement the One China policy because their economic miracle is plagued by…the same exact conditions that plague realityChina today. And, the world’s best hacker works for China, so I am expecting cyber-warfare to get rolling in Chapter 21.

            Just finished Clancy’s 2013 “Command Authority”, where a former KGB agent has become president of Russia, but Volodin’s* invasion of Estonia is stopped by the American President, Jack Ryan.

            *no relationship to Putin’s aide Volodin, still under US and EU sanctions since 2014 for Crimea.

            You just can not make this stuff up!

            or can you?

          • f1b0nacc1

            Apparently someone did….

          • Disappeared4x

            In other news, Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar got the exclusive first interview with Herve Pierre, the co-designer, with FLOTUS Melania, of her inaugural gown. The Hearst vs Conde Nast NNTwar is official! With one quote related to the topic of Russia and China:

            “…Pierre communicated through his thick French accent the essence of the American spirit. “That’s the good thing about this country: we are all equal, but we are definitely not the same,” he said. “I’m not doing politics, I’m doing dresses.
            We are not suddenly brokering a big deal between China and Russia.
            If people don’t want to dress her, I think it’s sad, but I was honored. I don’t criticize these people—it’s their choice, and that’s the beauty of democracy. …”

            Herve Pierre became a U.S. citizen last August.

          • f1b0nacc1

            You have done something I would have previously thought impossible….you have inspired me to read something about a fashion designer….

            Thank you

          • Disappeared4x

            Just got more interesting: “…White House insiders say that the first lady is close to finalizing her team to manage these attacks. Sources close to the administration exclusively tell Page Six former Vogue staffer and Met Ball organizer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff — who also masterminded Trump’s inauguration events with Tom Barrack — is being tapped as Melania’s chief strategist and is helping interview and select candidates for the first lady’s chief of staff, communications chief and social secretary. …”

            Emily Smith NYPost, page 6

            Trump45 made certain his morning newspapers in the WH are: NYT, NYPost, and WaPo, as reported by NYT yesterday.

          • Disappeared4x

            I can’t believe I am now reading Hearst’s Town and Country! It’s much better than Vanity Fair, which is under serious attack for using a stock photo of Melania, planned in 2011 for a totally different use, on the cover of their Jan2017Mexico edition.
            According to T&C, there are ten home trends to drop in 2017. Chevron designs are out, but the corgi stays.
            The kind of day when everyone needs corgis.

      • Anthony

        China has a sphere of influence, RedWell, just as we do. That recognition can be acknowledged without Pacific write off.

        • seattleoutcast

          I think that is well said. It is no different than Russia’s own sphere. Where we can make a difference is what WRM has been stating for years–aid those countries around China for mutual protection.

    • ImperiumVita

      The issue isn’t deciding sovereignty over real islands, It is China claiming sovereignty over artificial islands build over low tide elevations, which per international law, is not and cannot be come sovereign territory of a state. China’s have no sovereignty over those features by International law, and any actions by China to enforce a claim of sovereignty are illegal an dishonest.

      • Beauceron

        The issue isn’t islands, formed by nature or created by man. The issue is the “9 dash line” map China has used to stake their claim to virtually the entire SCS.

        And I agree the territory China claims based on that map would be wildly illegal. None of that speaks to my point: what has that got to do with us? Take the dispute to an international tribunal. Defend your claims. We have no claims to the SCS.

        • f1b0nacc1

          The claims were taken to an international tribunal, and the tribunal ruled against China. China ignored the result.

          The US is a maritime nation, and our prosperity depends upon freedom of the seas. This is hardly a new thing (as far back as our involvement in the War of 1812, we have been willing to use force to defend this position), and there are good reasons for it. Once you cede such things to any foreign power, you implicitly cede them to all powers. What happens when Iran claims (speciously or otherwise) that the Straits of Hormuz are ‘theirs’, and takes similar actions?

          I share your concerns regarding too much GloboCop(tm), but just because too much foreign adventuring is a bad idea (and it is), doesn’t mean that the reverse is a good one.

        • CapitalHawk

          I agree with what f1b0nacc1 said. I will also add this: the geography of the eastern portion of the Pacific Ocean, when combined with US allies and the US Navy, puts the US in a position to be able to squeeze the life out of the Chinese economy on the President’s say so. That allows the US to drive a hard bargain with China, if we elected to do that. It is not a chip I would so easily throw away.

          On the flip side of my argument: the fact that the US and European powers had the exact same leverage over Japan in the 1930s, and used it, is what triggered Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. But, possessing and being able to threaten to use a weapon, and *actually* using it, are two very different things.

          So, I would not give up the first island chain if it could be helped. And I think that allowing the Chinese to set up shop in the SCS very well may induce one of them to flip to the Chinese side (the Philippines looks possible recently). If that happened, it would dramatically improve China’s position, and weaken ours.

  • KremlinKryptonite

    So hilarious! The unelected regime in Beijing is so scared of Trump. He is apparently the first president since Reagan that the unelected Chinese Communist Party doesn’t own.
    Good job, Mr. President!

    • Suzy Dixon

      Spot on. The unelected CCP murders more Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs, as Falun Gong practitioners than Tojo ever could have dreamed to.
      They are so scared that Trump even took a phone call from the tiny democracy in Taipei. They are pathetic

  • ——————————

    “Beijing to Trump: Tread Lightly”

    The paper tiger roars…{yawn}….

  • Anthony

    In context of the above brief discussion (exclamation) the 300 ship Navy, combined with America’s other armed services, gives the United States more power (currently) than any other nation in the world. But we must not conflate that considerable power with overwhelming power.

  • ——————————

    Hmmmm…where’s our favorite PRC bot on this one?….

    • Psalms564

      You asked, Dhako answered.

  • Aldus du Flaperon

    The Chinese government has not been treading particularly lightly itself in South East Asia, lately. The same with Xi’s promotion of market freedom in Davos: China still has a long way to go before its economy becomes anywhere as open and free as in the United States. The emperor wears no clothes, and knows that Trump will not turn his eyes away for the sake of politeness.

  • Dhako

    Unlike most deluded Americans on this site, who think that China is paper tiger and what have you, it seems to me that, China has delivered her bottom-line to Trump’s administration. Which means, China is ready, politically, militarily, and economically (particularly the the alleged trade-war, in which Mr Trump is planning) to face whatever that is in which Mr Trump had in mind for China.

    Hence, if Trump’s administration is thinking in using these South China Sea, or even Taiwan, as a “leverage tool” to which to make China bent to Trump’s will, then someone need to tell him (or read to him, preferably) how wrong that will be, particularly in the light of what China considers a non-negotiable bottom-line. All in all, lets see what he does. For China will be mindful to call the bluff of those who imagine China is some hapless ninny, who can be browbeat to their heart’s desire.

    • ——————————

      “China is ready, politically, militarily, and economically (particularly the the alleged trade-war, in which Mr Trump is planning) to face whatever that is in which Mr Trump had in mind for China.”

      The USA could squash China like the cockroach it is…politically, militarily, and economically, if it so chose to.

      Dhako, your like the drunk midget at the bar threatening the bouncer….

      • Dhako

        What you are on about in here, dear lad, is the same touching delusion that had convinced the bulk of ill-educated white-working class in places like Ohio, that if they vote for the likes of Trump, then, they are likely to get back their Father’s manufacturing jobs back again. Hence, I shan’t begrudge you of your delusion, since that is all you left with nowadays.

        • seattleoutcast

          The voted for Trump because Hillary abandoned them. Under Obama in 2011, the democrat party decided they didn’t need the white, working class male anymore.

          The working class is quite aware of manufacturing issues. They know, however that Trump has their back. The delusion is all yours when it comes to why they left your party.

        • Pete

          Dhako, your ignorant posts reveal your inferiority complex relative to the West. Grow up little boy.

        • ——————————

          It seems I poked a needle in someones scrotum…he, he, he.

          Sorry Dhako, but those who attempt to take the intellectual high ground with me are just swinging at air…as I am quite comfortable with my position in life…be that a carpenter or a king.

          BTW, what is “ill-educated”?
          To me it is someone who wasted years of their life, and thousands of dollars, filling their mind with mostly useless information provided by a liberal professor, so they can cram to pass a series of tests in order to get a piece of paper that says they are ‘educated’. All that because they have no natural marketable skill, nor the drive or chutzpah to be self-made even if they had those skills.

          Glad I avoided all that nonsense….

      • Pete

        Dhako’s ignorant posts reveal his inferiority complex relative to the West. The little boy needs to grow up.

    • CapitalHawk

      Dropped articles – a dead giveaway for an Asian still trying to master English.

  • Pete

    Uh-oh. A mouse is roaring.

    • Dhako

      Re-read your history books. In particularly your history of what happened in Korea War, which was when China was even weaker than she currently is. Hence, this Cow-boyish bluster, is really so cliche that you lot need to update it to some less absurd line of guff than what you lot are currently selling to yourself.

      • Pete

        The Chinese mouse better behave itself least it get stepped on by Uncle Sam.

      • dave schutz

        At an earlier time we ignored credible threats from China and it bit us in the ass:

        “By the end of the month, the US Ambassador in Moscow reported that Soviet and Chinese contacts told both the British and Dutch Ambassadors that if foreign troops cross the 38th parallel, China would intervene.[27] This specific warning was also repeated to various journalists, and on 29 September, the Associated Press in Moscow reported that both China and the Soviet Union would take a “grave view” of US forces crossing the 38th parallel.[28] Finally, at the end of the month, in a major public policy address celebrating the first anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou En-lai branded the United States as China’s worst enemy and stated that China will not allow a neighbor to be invaded.[29]

        Once again, these warnings were ignored, and US-UN forces continued to push the DRPK forces northward. On 2 October, Mao cabled Stalin advising that China would intervene and asked for Soviet military assistance.[30] Three days later, the CCP Central Committee officially decided to intervene.[31] US intelligence, however, continued its reporting theme that while Chinese capability was present, Chinese intent was lacking. On 6 October, the US Joint Intelligence Indications Committee stated that the Chinese capability to intervene had grown, but the Chinese threat to do so was questionable.[32] That same day, the CIA Weekly Summary advised that the possibility of Soviet or Chinese intervention continued to diminish. It also restated the belief that Soviet requirements would drive any such decision.”

        And do note that if there were unpleasantness in the South China Sea, China’s supply lines would be a lot shorter than ours.

      • Suzy Dixon

        Oh, you mean that time the Russian-installed Kim regime tried to invade South Korea, the US aided South Korea, and then the unelected CCP sent in 400,000 peasants to stop any advance on Pyongyang. Yeah, that tells you what you need to know about the CCP, and it’s also irrelevant (tactics laid waste to by the 1991 Gulf War). The CCP watched in horror as the US dismantled the Iraqi Army (better than the PLA at the time),

      • CapitalHawk

        Much better. Shorter and to the point. You’re getting better Mr. PRC!

    • Suzy Dixon

      Sent to the wrong user, oops

  • Anthony

    “US President Donald Trump’s administration is making a major miscalculation by going after China. It appears to be contemplating a wide range of economic and political sanctions – from imposing punitive tariffs and designating China a currency manipulator to embracing Taiwan and casting aside 40 years of diplomacy framed around the so-called One-China policy.

    This strategy will backfire. It is based on the mistaken belief that a newly muscular United States has all the leverage in dealing with its presumed adversary, and that any Chinese response is hardly worth considering. Nothing could be further from the truth.” (–roach-2017-01 )

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    40 years of being uplifted by foreign investors, can’t make up for the inferior Communist Chinese Culture. In that time China hasn’t spawned a single world class brand name like Sony, Toyota, Kia, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Google, etc… and there’s nothing they now make which can’t be made elsewhere and with much less risk.

    China is extremely vulnerable to a Strategic Blockade (40% of China’s economy is dependent on foreign trade, nearly all of which moves through China’s ports on the China Sea), which would instantly cost them their world markets, which once re-sourced, would never be regained. In addition, China holds $4+ Trillion in foreign Treasuries which would be immediately disavowed in the event of a war.

    • Jim__L

      The bit about the Blockade makes it apparent why they’re so interested in staking out territory in those seas there.

  • FriendlyGoat

    China is sensing that the Trump style is to try to roll everybody at once. I imagine they plan, if possible, to establish themselves as being an exception to the herd of the rolled.

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