BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Now that US President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that encourages the United States to send officials "of all levels" to Taiwan to meet their "counterparts" on the island, and vice versa, the precious predictability consecutive past US administrations cautiously sought to preserve in China-US relations may soon be a thing of the past.
The current US president has a penchant for trying to profit from unpredictability. But it is foreseeable that the uncertainties caused by the so-called Taiwan Travel Act will harm his country's relations with China and do a disservice to the efforts the two countries have made over the decades to build friendly relations on the bedrock of the three communiques that normalised ties.
While most agree Trump's latest move is a provocation to Beijing, many in the US and elsewhere seem to believe the law's "nonbinding" nature will not instigate an immediate change in bilateral ties and view it as just another tool the Trump administration is hoping to use to pressure Beijing for more concessions in trade talks.
However, China's Foreign Ministry is taking the matter a lot more seriously and has made strong representations to the US, as it severely violates the one-China policy, the political foundation of the China-US relationship.
If the Trump administration views the island as a winning piece in its competitive game with what it regards as a "strategic rival", it is in for a rude awakening. As Beijing has said on many occasions and expressed in terms that could not be any clearer, Taiwan is a matter of reunification left over from history and is thus an internal affair that brooks no interference from outside.
For all its dismay at the folly of the move, Beijing may continue to try to avoid confronting Washington up front. But that does not mean it will meekly swallow the bitter pill of the US breaking its agreements in this way. Especially, since in doing so, it is sending "very wrong signals" to the secessionists in Taiwan.
The country's Anti-Secession Law obligates the government to resort to "non-peaceful means" if any major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur. And since those pursuing the island's "independence" have interpreted the US' move as support for their determination to challenge the mainland. Trump and his advisors should be aware that they intend to lead them a merry dance in their misguided attempts to achieve their impossible aim.
The prospect of a military response from Beijing to reunify the island with the motherland should its redline be crossed, which has been talked about lately, should not be casually dismissed.
Instead of seeking to continually prick Beijing, the US should blunt its sharp points and honour its commitments so that the complications of history can be peacefully unraveled.
China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.