The president is laying down petroleum reminders before his meeting with Xi, but Beijing tends to react mischievously to bullying
The US announcement of a $1.42 bn limbs marketing to Taiwan is a not-so-subtle alerting film across the bowings 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 ten-strike could miscarry badly.
Official confirmation of the arms auction, under consideration since January, coincides with Xis officiation at an ostentatious military procession in Hong Kong on Friday, celebrating Chinas reunification with what until 1997 Beijing regarded as a renegade state same to Taiwan.
In a series of parallel, and provocative, moves, a Republican-controlled Senate committee also provisionally approved his trip 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 plan.
The decision, if implemented, could in effect supply a naval base and facilities for US aircraft carriers and ruins precisely 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 numerous vistum Chinas new regional assertiveness as a threat. The defense ministry said: The ministry welcomes any form of partnership that would enhance Taiwans national defence the abilities and raising stability to the region.
The Senate bill also guides the Pentagon to help Taiwan develop an undersea warfare 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 present of patrol purposefully led at China. The battleship practises, involving 33,000 personnels, reflect increased frictions over what Washington views as Chinese armed expansionism in the South China Sea.
China has expressed scandalize over the Taiwan arms package. The foreign ministry expected a halt to the sale and to military drills to escape further impairing broadly cooperative China-US relations. But Beijings overall response will depend on the outcome of the Trump-Xi meeting in Hamburg.
When he and Xi first met in April, Trump acclaimed the beginning of a brand-new period. We have great chemistry together, he proclaimed, and ceased earlier threats to impose punishing craft tariffs and disown the one-China policy.
It transpired his main aim was to persuade Xi to take a tougher position on North Korea. He claimed to have succeeded. But the White House has been briefing in recent days that Trump is disheartened and forestalled at tepid Chinese cooperation on the Pyongyang regime.
So now US war on trade is back on the table. Again not coincidentally, the administration announced further sanctions relating to North Koreas nuclear and missile programs 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 sparked speculation about a brand-new slump in bilateral relations but this is probably premature. Nothing of the most recent developments US activities is irreparable. Trump is crudely reminding Xi of possible importances if their talks do not produce outcomes. But China has a history of reacting seriously to bullying and Trumps tactics could blow up in his face.
In Taiwan, where numerous in the independence-minded, ruling Democratic Progressive party feel serially bullied by Beijing, indications of closer American engagement could parent false hopes and dangerously exasperate stress with the mainland. Chinas recent success in generating Panama to break off diplomatic ties with Taipei, the most recent example of Beijings attempts to isolate the island, was much resented.
Opinion referendums indicate increasing numbers of younger Taiwanese, impatient with Chinese distres to reform the status quo, are moving in the opposite direction to that which China requires: towards greater segregation.
A recent Taiwan Brain Trust thinktank survey found that practically 90% supported normalisation of Taiwans political status internationally, prospectively signifying worldwide recognition of Taiwan as an independent, sovereign commonwealth.
As in Hong Kong, Taiwanese citizens increasingly feel different from China; 75% said Taiwan and China were separate people. Only 11% backed fusion. And when they meet Xi and his troops strutting around Victoria Harbour, that we are able to blame them?