Monday, December 12, 2016

What's the Big Deal with Answering the Phone: A Donald Trump Story

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Here is what we know: Donald Trump spoke with Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's president. What we don't necessarily know is the content of the phone call or how long it lasted. The big deal is that those other details aren't pertinent to the issue. The president-elect of the United States spoke on the phone with the President of Taiwan. Such communication has not occurred since the United States transferred diplomatic relations with China from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. TThat action effectively internationally recognized the existence of the One China policy promulgated by the People's Republic of China, which is that Taiwan is a part of the PRC and not an independent entity. China is not pleased, to put it lightly, that Trump would speak with the President of Taiwan. Political commentators are already speculating how horribly this will affect the relationship that Trump will build with China during his time as President.

Image result for Trump Taiwan comicsThat phone call raises a few issues, not the least of which is the potential conflict of interest Trump is experiencing with his attempt to move Trump International into Taiwan. The Taiwan recognition issue is not unprecedented. When Ronald Reagan entered office, he promised to revamp relations with Taiwan and invited Taiwanese premiers to the inauguration. Reagan, like Trump, had previous ties with Taiwan from his time as governor of California. Again, Beijing was furious. Beijing sent an envoy to discuss the Taiwan Relations Act. Reagan called China on its envoy and proclaimed that the Act needed to be strengthened, contrary to the PRC's prediction. Throughout Reagan's presidency, he enjoyed stable Sino-American relations, while also strengthening ties with Taiwan.

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I don't think Trump can do the same. He doesn't yet have the international clout or respect. Following the phone call, Beijing analysts called Trump a diplomatic neophyte and criticized him for operating in a landscape with which he is entirely unfamiliar. It is still too early to determine the long-term effects of the phone call, but suffice it to say that it surely will not provide any positives to the United States' relationship with China. Now with Trump set to assume the presidency, all that Americans can do now is brace for impact.

1 comment:

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