China lodges diplomatic protest after Donald Trump's call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

Beijing: China has lodged a diplomatic protest after US President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of diplomatic protocol by holding direct talks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

But Beijing also sought to play down the significance of the 10-minute telephone call held between Mr Trump and Ms Tsai on Friday, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi blaming the exchange on Taiwan’s “petty action” while noting the White House’s immediate affirmation of the so-called one-China policy, which recognises the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty over the self-ruled island.

“The one-China policy is the bedrock of the healthy development of Sino-American relations,” Mr Wang told reporters at an academic forum in Beijing on Saturday. “We do not wish to see this political foundation meet with any disruption or damage.”

China’s foreign ministry said Saturday it had lodged “stern representations” with what it described as the “relevant US side”, without elaborating specifically whether this included the Trump transition team directly. It urged the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.

Cross-strait relations have soured markedly since Ms Tsai, who leads the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, swept to a landslide victory in Taiwan’s presidential election in January. Ms Tsai’s pointed refusal to explicitly acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus” has angered Beijing and seen communication between the two sides break down.

Previous US administrations have undertaken a delicate diplomatic dance around the thorny Taiwan issue, continuing to supply military equipment to the island despite severing diplomatic ties in 1979 as part of its recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

Mr Trump is the first president or president-elect to have spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader in nearly four decades.

Posting on Twitter, Mr Trump said Ms Tsai “CALLED ME” and made reference to his country’s arms deals with Taiwan. “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” he said.

Taiwan’s presidential spokesman Alex Huang said: “Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact”.

Mr Trump and Ms Tsai noted the “close economic, political and security ties exist between Taiwan and the United States”, the Trump transition team said. Taiwan’s presidential office said the paired discussed strengthening bilateral interactions and establishing closer cooperation.

Chinese analysts say Beijing would likely undertake a measured response as it waits to ascertain whether Mr Trump’s apparent receptiveness to Ms Tsai’s overtures could prove a more permanent foreign policy calibration for when he takes office next month. China’s state-run media also struck a relatively calm tone.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said bilateral relations with the US rested on a “firm belief that the two great powers can co-exist peacefully” and that Mr Trump “needs to know that Beijing can be a cooperative partner”. That comes with the caveat, however, that Washington respected China’s “core interests including the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea”, it said in an English-language editorial.

Nationalistic tabloid Global Times said if Mr Trump turned on the longstanding one-China principle, it would create an overwhelming crisis with Beijing that would leave him with little time to do anything else.

“We believe this is not something the shrewd Trump wants to do,” it said in an editorial.

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