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Donald Trump tweets about China's currency, military policies after Taiwan flap

Donald Trump attends a campaign event on the tarmac of the airport in Kinston, North Carolina, October 26 2016. 

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Following a phone call with Taiwan that resulted in a diplomatic protest from China, President-elect Donald Trump is using his Twitter account to criticize the Chinese government Sunday afternoon about currency manipulation, tariffs, and military policy.

He sent two-tweet messages early Sunday evening:

In August 2015, China suddenly moved to devalue its currency -- a 1.9-percent drop against the dollar -- which the country’s central bank defended at the time as making its exchange rate more market-oriented.

Mr. Trump also referenced what he called a “massive military complex” in the South China Sea. The Chinese have built thousands of acres of islands in the waters, where the government has turned reefs and shoals into land with runways, tennis courts, and military capability.

The president-elect is incorrect in saying the U.S. doesn’t tax Chinese imports. The U.S. places a 2.5 percent tariff on Chinese goods sold in the country if they are agricultural products, according to the World Trade Organization. For non-agricultural products, the tariff is 2.9 percent.

Chinese tariffs on U.S. products are higher, though: 9.7 percent for agricultural products and 5 percent for non-agricultural products. These tariff rates are imposed on every member of the WTO that exports to China, except for countries that have separate trade deals with China.

The tweets come on the heels of criticism of the president-elect for his recent talk with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ying-wen.

On Friday, Mr. Trump spoke with Ying-wen over the phone -- the first time a president or president-elect has spoken with a Taiwanese leader since the U.S. cut formal diplomatic ties with the island in 1979.

It sparked a backlash from China’s government, which considers Taiwan a province of China. The U.S. has formally respected that relationship in its diplomatic dealings.

On Saturday, Beijing lodged a formal complaint about the call. 

“We have noticed relevant reports and lodged solemn representation with the relevant side in the United States,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement. “I must point out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of the Chinese territory… We urge the relevant side in the US to adhere to the ‘one China’ policy, abide by the pledges in the three joint China-US communiques, and handle issues related to Taiwan carefully and properly to avoid causing unnecessary interference to the overall China-U.S. relationship.”

In an editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper, the writers dismissed the incident as Trump being naive.

“It exposed nothing but his and his transition team’s inexperience in dealing with foreign affairs,” the editorial states.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, however, Reince Priebus, who has been named Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff, defended the president-elect, saying that “he knew exactly what was happening,” and that the call was a brief, two-minute “congratulatory call.”

“Look, we’ve got a lot of problems to solve in this country and we’re not going to solve them by just, you know, making believe that people don’t exist,” said Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff. “He talked to [Chinese] President Xi over two weeks ago, I’m sure he’d be willing to talk to him again. This is not a massive deviation of our policy, but President Trump has made it clear that he is going to work with China-PRC, to make sure that we have a better deal, that we have better trade agreements, and that we do a better job in protecting the American worker and he’s going to continue to do it.”