Days before China celebrated the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to the mainland from the British, the U.S. said it plans to sell $1.4 billion in arms to Taiwan in what is seen by Beijing as an affront to the "One China" policy. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman told reporters however that there has been no change to the United States' official acknowledgement that Taiwan and mainland China are a single entity.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang argued last week that by selling arms to Taiwan, the U.S. has "severely violated international law" and jeopardized China's sovereignty and national interests."
That came after three senior administration officials told Reuters last week that the U.S. president was growing increasingly frustrated with China over North Korea and other issues, and was considering possible trade actions against Beijing. Options include tariffs against steel imports.
Miscalculations by both sides
The shift in America's stance toward China comes amid disappointment from Washington over Chinese inaction against North Korea. The reclusive country has persisted with missile tests, and this week appears to have launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
"Washington's recent moves in South China Sea, plans for steel tariffs and the rubber-stamping of an arms sale to Taiwan indicate that Trump is shifting toward a more hard-line approach on China," said Guo Yu, principal China analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.
This comes after seemingly warm relations after Mar-a-Lago, with Trump calling Xi "a very good man" later in the same month.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
Is the honeymoon already over for Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump?
"What we've actually seen was a toning down of rhetoric over the last few months (following Mar-a-Lago) because I think President Trump genuinely believed that Xi Jinping would be able to do something to rein in North Korea," said Frontier Strategy Group Senior China Analyst Josef Jelinek. "I think what's happened is that there's been a miscalculation."
Trump "over-valued" his personal touch with Xi, said Jelinek.
There was misjudgment on China's part as well.
"China miscalculated what would be the minimum they would have to do to buy off President Trump," Jelinek said. "I think they probably thought a few high-visual maneuvers such as banning coal shipments would do the trick."