The president is laying down petroleum remembers before his meeting with Xi, but Beijing tends to react mischievously to bullying
The US announcement of a $1.42 bn limbs sale to Taiwan is a not-so-subtle advising shot across the fores of Chinas president, Xi Jinping, who is due to meet Donald Trump for potentially tense bilateral talks at next weeks G20 summit in Hamburg. But Trumps pre-emptive impres could backfire badly.
Official confirmation of the arms auction, under consideration since January, coincided with Xis officiation at an ostentatious military procession in Hong Kong on Friday, celebrating Chinas reunification with what until 1997 Beijing regarded as a deserter state same to Taiwan.
In a series of parallel, and provoking, moves, a Republican-controlled Senate committee also provisionally approved visits to Taiwan by the Japan-based US Seventh Fleet for the first time since 1979, when Washington recognised the Peoples Republic of China and chose a one China program.
The decision, if used, could in effect afford a naval basi and facilities for US attack aircraft carrier and ruins just off the coast of the Chinese mainland. Thats a bit like the Peoples Liberation Army building gun emplacements on Long Island.
The announcement was swiftly acclaimed in Taiwan, where many position Chinas brand-new regional assertiveness as a threat. The defence ministry said: The ministry welcomes different forms of partnership that would enhance Taiwans national defence the capacity and producing stability to the region.
The Senate bill too leads the Pentagon to help Taiwan develop an undersea war programme and recommends strengthened tactical cooperation with Taipei.
Coincidentally or not, the US and Australia began their biggest ever joint military exercises on Thursday a seaborne depict of patrol purposefully directed at China. The battleship practises, concerning 33,000 personnels, show increased frictions over what Washington views as Chinese military expansionism in the South China Sea.
China has expressed cruelty over the Taiwan forearms parcel. The foreign ministry challenged a halting to the sale and to armed drills to evade farther impairing broadly cooperative China-US relations. But Beijings overall response will depend on the consequences of Trump-Xi meeting in Hamburg.
When he and Xi first met in April, Trump acclaimed the start of a new epoch. We have enormous chemistry together, he proclaimed, and descent earlier threats to impose punishing trade tariffs and disavow the one-China plan.
It transpired his main objective was to persuade Xi to take a tougher pipeline on North Korea. He claimed to have succeeded. But the White House has been briefing in recent days that Trump is disillusioned and forestalled at tepid Chinese cooperation on the Pyongyang regime.
So now US action on trade is back on the table. Again not coincidentally, the administration announced further embargoes relating to North koreans nuclear and weapon programmes on Thursday, targeting a Chinese bank and a shipping company.
It likewise pointedly criticised Chinas human rights and democracy record in Hong Kong. The US moves have provoked speculation about a new slump in bilateral relations but this is probably premature. None of the latest US activities is irreversible. Trump is crudely prompting Xi of possible repercussions if their talks do not produce develops. But China has a history of reacting badly to bullying and Trumps tactics could blow up in his face.
In Taiwan, where numerous in the independence-minded, regulating Democratic Progressive party feel serially bullied by Beijing, indications of closer American engagement could grow false hopes and dangerously irritate tightens with the mainland. Chinas recent success in inducing Panama to break off diplomatic ties with Taipei, the most recent example of Beijings attempts to isolate the island, was much resented.
Opinion canvas recommend an increasing proportion of younger Taiwanese, impatient with Chinese distres to alter the status quo, operate within the opposite direction to that which China craves: towards greater separation.
A recent Taiwan Brain Trust thinktank survey found that nearly 90% supported normalisation of Taiwans political status internationally, prospectively making worldwide recognition of Taiwan as an independent, sovereign nation.
As in Hong Kong, Taiwanese citizens increasingly feel differences between China; 75% said Taiwan and China were separate societies. Simply 11% backed unification. And when they read Xi and his units strutting around Victoria Harbour, who are in a position accuse them?