[The following is a guest post from political scientist Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan, Central and South Asia, who served in the Obama administration.]
On December 16, 2016, President Obama, speaking at his last White House press conference, suggested to Donald Trump that, “Since there's only one president at a time,” the president-elect should wait “before he starts having a lot of interactions with foreign governments other than the usual courtesy calls.”
At that time I was in Beijing discussing ideas for U.S.-China cooperation in Afghanistan. Two days earlier, on December 14, 2016, the spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs office warned of the consequences of trying to reopen the One China” policy, three days after Donald Trump had announced in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he would do just that. If so, the spokesman said, “the healthy, stable development of China-US relations is out of the question, and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted." In private my Chinese interlocutors parsed that general statement: China could work with the U.S. on areas of common interest such as Afghanistan despite conflicts over the South China Sea, North Korea, or trade, but questioning the unity of China would end such coordination. If Trump carried out such a policy as president, they claimed, China could not rule out taking Taiwan by force.
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