Taiwan caught in middle as Trump questions "One China" policy

China’s president did not mention President-elect Donald Trump when he spoke to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday. But Beijing is unhappy that the president-elect wants to negotiate the status of Taiwan. China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said Monday that challenging longstanding policy would “be like lifting a rock to drop it on one’s own feet.”

Taiwan, the island of 23 million people, has been self-ruled since 1949, when leader Chiang Kai-Shek fled the Communists and settled here. But Beijing still considers Taiwan part of China, according to the so-called “One China” policy, reports CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz. It’s non-negotiable to them, but Mr. Trump wants to negotiate – and caught in the middle is Taiwan.

Something’s missing far above Taipei’s skyline – tourists from mainland China.

Over the last six months, mainland visitors at the Taipei 101 observation deck and the high-end mall below have dropped by nearly 30 percent.

“Why do you think that was?” Diaz asked.

“Political reasons, obviously,” Michael Liu said.

Liu, who represents the skyscraper, said China cut tourism to punish Taiwan’s independence-leaning president, Tsai Ing-wen, for not endorsing the One China Principle.

“Is there concern that things might get worse?” Diaz asked.

“Yes, I mean some people worry about that,” Liu said.

Though life appears normal in Taiwan’s bustling markets, tensions are mounting with their neighbor. China cut all official contact with Taiwan in June, and its military is testing the boundaries.
 
For her part, President Tsai is walking a political tight rope. Last month’s precedent-breaking phone call to Mr. Trump didn’t help. It partially legitimized her leadership, infuriating China.

“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘One China’ policy,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News last December.

Now Mr. Trump keeps twisting the knife. He told the Wall Street Journal Friday, “everything is under negotiation, including One China.”

That prompted fighting words and images in Chinese state media.

An editorial Monday said if Mr. Trump doesn’t back down, Beijing will have “no choice but to take off the gloves.”

Locals say he’s both helping and hurting Taiwan. One woman said she likes Mr. Trump because he has power. Another said, “I think he will make ... China angry. So maybe it’s not good for us.”

Bill Stanton, who ran the American Institute in Taiwan, our unofficial embassy, said Taiwan shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip with China.

“He needs to avoid doing anything that’s going to upset the status quo in the Taiwan Straight,” Stanton said.

Taiwan’s already feeling the pressure diplomatically. Last week, when China offered Nigeria a $40 billion investment, in turn Nigeria agreed to close Taiwan’s trade office in its capital. Many in Taiwan fear if Mr. Trump uses Taiwan as bait after taking office, their future will be on the line.