President Xi Jinping on Friday appreciated his US counterpart Donald Trump’s decision to honour the “one-China” policy hours after the two leaders spoke on phone, their first conversation since the American leader’s inauguration.
Trump’s sharp diplomatic about-turn came about two months after he spoke to President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which China’s considers a breakaway province, and angered Beijing by saying Washington doesn’t have to follow the “one-China” policy.
Most countries, including India, follow the “one-China” policy, which means they don’t have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but maintain relations informally. The US has followed the policy since 1979.
The phone call came almost three weeks into Trump’s presidency and after he had made several similar calls – not all cordial – with heads of state.
“China will work with the US to enhance communication and cooperation so that bilateral ties can advance in a sound and stable manner and yield more fruits to benefit the two peoples and people of all countries in the world,” Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
“Trump said he fully understands the high significance of the US government's pursuit of the one-China policy, adding that the US government adheres to the one-China policy,” the report added.
A statement from the White House said Trump “agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'one-China' policy”.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the “one-China” policy was the political foundation of Sino-US ties. He declined to confirm whether Trump agreed to endorse the principle at Xi’s request.
Lu also didn’t answer questions on whether China had to agree with the US on a deal on trade or other issues to elicit Trump’s endorsement.
The reaction from Taiwan was expectedly muted.
“A spokesman for President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement it was in Taiwan’s interest to maintain good relations with the United States and China,” Reuters reported.
Shen Dingli, international relations expert from Shanghai’s Fudan University, welcomed the White House’s concession to Xi. “It is good for the two countries and the Asia-Pacific. Now we can have a predictable relationship,” Shen told The Guardian newspaper. “Beijing must feel much relief at the message.”