Chinese officials and state media reacted with anger – and a patronizing tone – to President-elect Donald Trump’s comments questioning U.S. adherence to the “one-China” policy, shocked that he would dare challenge what has long been a sacred cow in U.S.-China relations.

“The policy has become a fundamental principle of international order,” the Communist Party publication Global Times said in an editorial, in reference to Beijing’s assertion that Taiwan is part of China. “The one-China policy is not for selling. Trump thinks that everything can be valued and, as long as his leverage is strong enough, he can sell or buy.”

Trump told Fox News Sunday, “I fully understand the one-China policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”

Under the one-China policy adhered to by successive U.S. administrations Washington has full diplomatic relations with Beijing but only quasi-diplomatic ties with Taipei, whose sovereignty is not recognized by the international community despite being a thriving, self-governing democracy of 23 million people (and the world’s 22nd biggest economy and the U.S.’ ninth largest trading partner.)

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