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Trump Pledges to Honor ‘One China’ Policy

In a February 9, 2017, phone call with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping, U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to withhold diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and continue to adhere to the “One China” policy.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang didn’t directly address a question about whether China had to make any concessions in return.

Xi had made clear to the Trump administration that U.S. adherence to the “One China” policy was an absolute precondition for relations.

For Trump, the China call was part of a broader message to the region. In a February 10 meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump reassured Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations that he would not scale back the U.S. military presence in the region.

Analysts who study China said the change in Trump’s tone was inevitable, but some are disappointed.

“I guess I always knew President Trump would eventually reaffirm our One China policy, but I was at least hoping for a more open, frank discussion on its origins and continued relevance before doing so,” said Sean King, an Asia specialist and Senior Vice President at consulting firm Park Strategies.

King also said the turnaround would hurt Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Although Taiwan was concerned that the island might become a chess piece in U.S.-Chinese relations, Trump’s call with Tsai shortly after his election had sparked celebrations as well as anxiety.

Trump’s agreement to continue the One China policy marks one in a series of stances toward Asia that he’s expressed since taking office.

During his campaign, Trump had threatened to impose a 45 percent trade tariff on Chinese goods and promised to declare China a currency manipulator. However, he told the Wall Street Journal in an interview before taking office that he wanted to speak with China before following through on these actions.

David Lampton, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said China might be willing to improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing by doing such things as increasing pressure on North Korea over its nuclear threat or advancing talks on a bilateral investment treaty.

Eswar Prasad, a former China expert at the International Monetary Fund and a professor at Cornell University, said the move might be beneficial for U.S. businesses as well because it would ease economic and political tensions.

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