ISLAMABAD - Senior Chinese officials say they hope U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will move quickly to put relations between China and the United States back on track after he takes office next month.
“The China-U.S. relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, and China is ready to continue to develop our relationship with the U.S. on the basis of our current status,” said Zheng Xiaosong, China's deputy foreign minister for Asia, while speaking in neighboring Pakistan Tuesday.
Trump, however, appears to have already sparked a diplomatic dispute with Beijing after he spoke to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, on the telephone in early December — a move which led China to lodge a protest with the U.S. ambassador in Beijing.
The U.S. broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and, since then, no U.S. president or president-elect has spoken directly with island officials. China claims democratically-ruled Taiwan is part of its territory and has never renounced the use of military force to bring the island under its control.
China also has expressed “serious concerns” about Trump’s decision to call into question the United States’ continued adherence to the “one China” policy, which was a key step to establishing diplomatic ties between Beijing and Washington.
Zheng, along with China’s acting ambassador in Pakistan, Muhammad Lijian Zhao, addressed a big gathering of scholars, researchers and politicians in Islamabad.
Zheng said a “sound development” of China-U.S. relations is of critical importance for the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
“But of course we have principles when it comes to developing [a} relationship with the U.S. That is, we will not compromise on the international principles. We will not compromise on our core interests."
Relations under Obama presidency
Ambassador Zhao summarized relations between Beijing and Washington under President Barack Obama’s administration as “starting high but going low afterwards.” He noted that Obama was the first U.S. president who visited China in his first year in office.
“And, therefore, usually it would take us about one year after the assumption of office of a new [U.S.] president for us to put China’s relationship back on a solid footing. I hope that the time that it will take us to put our relations back on track will be shorter for President Trump,” said the acting Chinese envoy.
In their first years in office, American presidents would try to sell weapons to Taiwan, or meet with the Dalai Lama, “which are both a red line for China,” noted Zhao, while recounting difficulties China encountered under Obama’s predecessors. China regards the Nobel Prize-winning monk as a separatist, and, while the Dalai Lama has been an outspoken critic of China's policies in Tibet, he has advocated for a middle way, not asking for independence from China for Tibet, but for more autonomy.