By Casey Hall
with contributions from Amanda Kaiser
 on December 11, 2016
Donald Trump president

SHANGHAI–China’s state-run Global Times newspaper published Monday a scathing editorial in response to United States President-elect Donald Trump‘s remarks that he might not respect the “one-China policy” that considers Taiwan a part of China. The publication went as far as to call Trump “ignorant as a child” at a time when some observers are fearing that a trade war could erupt between China and the United States.

Later Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was “extremely concerned” about Trump’s statements and issued a threat if the United States does not respect the one-China philosophy.

“If this foundation is disturbed, there are no grounds to talk about further developing the healthy and stable relationship between China and the U.S., and their bilateral cooperation in major aspects,” he said.

The Global Times used particularly scathing language to condemn Trump. “The one-China policy is not something that can be negotiated,” the English-language paper wrote Monday after Trump’s interview with “Fox News Sunday”. The Global Times suggested that the President-elect needs to learn more about foreign policy, particularly when it comes to China and the U.S., before weighing in on the delicate situation concerning Taiwan.

“It seems Trump needs to study foreign affairs humbly. He particularly needs to learn what the relationship between China and U.S. is about,” the editorial said. “Many people will be amazed by how ‘business-minded’ the new US leader is, and how he is as ignorant as a child in terms of foreign policy.”

Trump raised the possibility of abandoning the decades-old U.S. diplomatic status quo of tacitly acknowledging Taiwan as part of China on Fox News Sunday.

“I fully understand the one-China policy. I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy, unless we make a deal with China,” he told Fox News before going on to criticize China over issues like its handling of trade, tariffs, currency manipulation and North Korean affairs. “I don’t want China dictating to me.”

The latest back-and-forth comes little more than a week after Trump ruffled feathers by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. On Sunday, Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he received word about the call from Taiwan only an hour or two beforehand, dismissing reports that the move was a calculated one in the works for some time.

The reaction from Beijing to that initial provocation was uncharacteristically understated, but Trump’s decision to double-down on the issue of Taiwan seems to have pushed the Chinese government to make a statement.

During the Fox New interview, Trump doubled down on his vow to impose a 35 percent tax on the imports of companies that ship jobs overseas.

Observers were split on how to read this latest dose of friction between Trump and China. Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight said that the large trade imbalance in China’s favor means the world’s second-largest economy is likely to tread carefully for the time being.

“China would most likely have to be cautious in its policy responses to the US in order not to damage its own export sector,” Biswas said. “The Trump Administration does have a wide range of trade policy options available but it is too early to be certain whether it intends to impose such tariff measures or whether there will be negotiations to try to find alternative solutions to potential differences on bilateral trade issues.”

According to Professor Darryl S.L. Jarvis from The Education University of Hong Kong’s Department of Asian and Policy Studies, Trump’s putting the one-China policy in play is causing so much uncertainty that trade is already being impacted, with new projects and investments being put on hold until the future of the relationship between China and the U.S. becomes clearer.

“This is sending a cold shudder through everybody. Everyone I talk to who has business interests in China is looking increasingly worried,” Jarvis said. “A lot of the new deals and investments that were to go to China are currently on hold. There’s enough fear in the marketplaces to have already slowed the flow of new investments and projects.”

Trump seems to see this instability and uncertainty as a good initial outcome, according to Jarvis.

“This is what Trump wants from China, on the back foot, slightly intimidated, slightly nervous, and worried about what the future holds. In Trump’s viewpoint, any damage that results from this might be bilateral, but it will hurt China more and that’s a win,” he said.