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South x South China Sea

Today, 45 will have his first meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at -- where else -- his resort in Mar-A-Lago. Meanwhile, true foreign policy and diplomacy experts are biting their nails in suspense.


REMIND ME

This is potentially the most nerve-racking meeting 45 has had since inaugurated on that dark day in January. The U.S.-China relationship is a delicate one. And let's not overlook how that relationship has been tested since 45 took office.

Remember when 45 took a call from Taiwan's leader? This call was no mistake. It was a carefully planned provocation aimed at China. Why, you ask? Because the de facto agreement underpinning the U.S.-China relationship is the "One-China" principle. Since the 1979 derecognition of Taiwan, no U.S. president has been in contact with the leader of Taiwan. When 45 did so, it broke the agreement that leaders of the U.S. will not be in contact with leaders in Taiwan.

Photo from ECFR.eu article on Trump, One-China, and global order.

Photo from ECFR.eu article on Trump, One-China, and global order.

45 then doubled down on his gamble, tweeting that he didn't need to honor the One-China policy. Since then, he has backed off, but this could make for a very tense meeting.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

Beijing asserts sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, and has built artificial reef-top islands that are capable of accommodating missiles and military planes. As of a few hours ago, the President of the Philippines deployed troops to occupy this disputed space. This is problematic because the U.S. is an ally to the Philippines, and thus has security and military responsibilities to them.

Photo from Time.com/Getty Images.

Photo from Time.com/Getty Images.

This is a clear example of a stability-instability paradox. In layman's terms, this paradox explains that, when two countries are so focused on nuclear stability, the potential for movement on a conventional level increases. Striking a balance between the two is difficult, and it is a challenge facing the U.S. and China currently.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Let's check in with our friends in Australia, whose Senate recently voted not to ratify an extradition treaty developed with Beijing, citing legitimate concerns over a lack of human rights protections in China. Essentially, Australian officials don't trust that China will provide due process protections to those extradited. This follows the recent detention of an Australian resident and professor who is a Chinese citizen. 

Photo from the Financial Times.

Photo from the Financial Times.

Human rights violations are a constant issue with Sino-Pacific, and U.S.-China, relations. Often, there is such a political focus on strategic issues that these traditional issues are set aside. 45 has not prioritized human rights, and it is unlikely that he will bring this concern up in his first meeting with Xi.


KEEP READING

  • Slate Opinion | "How Chinese President Xi Jinping Could Play Donald Trump"
  • NY Times | "Trump and Xi's First Meeting: How Long Will the Cordiality Last?"
  • NPR | "President Trump Meets With China's Xi Jinping" (with audio)

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