Beijing will “strike back firmly” if Trump as president openly challenges China’s core interests like Taiwan, Tibet, the South China Sea and the East China Sea, said Shi Yinhong, director of the Center on American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing and an adviser to China’s State Council, the cabinet. Options include recalling the ambassador, stopping international cooperation, fighting a trade war — even severing diplomatic ties.
“So far, China has adopted a cautious, measured approach of wait and see,” Shi said. “The government is still closely observing what Trump is up to and in the process of forming a clear view on his possible policy. This approach will likely continue into his presidency for the first couple of months.”
The fallout from worsening ties threatens a two-way trade relationship that reached $627 billion in 2015, more than U.S.’s combined commerce with Japan, the U.K. and Germany. While some policy makers in Beijing initially hoped that Trump would bring a more pragmatic approach, that view is quickly fading.
In an editorial last week after Trump questioned the One-China policy, the Global Times warned: “We shall harbor no illusions, and get ready to wrist-fight with Trump.” Foreign Minister Wang Yi, without mentioning Trump’s name, said that whoever tries to destroy China’s core interests would shoot themselves in the foot.