By Joe hung
A tempest in a teapot hit the world on Dec. 2. President Tsai Ing-wen talked with President-elect Donald Trump of the United States for 10 minutes. It was a major break with Washington’s China policy, elating Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party and triggering a jittery protest from Beijing. Of course, tongues started wagging around the world and political gossip has since continued unabated. What the pair talked about, according to the official press releases, wasn’t shocking at all. They noted the “close economic, political and security ties” between Taiwan and the United States. Trump congratulated Tsai on her election victory last Jan. 16 and Tsai likewise gave Trump kudos for his upset in the U.S. presidential race.
The People’s Republic of China lodged a protest with the United States, reiterating its opposition to any official contact or military interaction between Taiwan and the United States. Under the terms of Washington’s normalization of relations with Beijing in 1979, Uncle Sam maintains unofficial ties with Taiwan and sells it defensive weapons.
As he came under fire, Trump defended the contact on Twitter. The president elect tweeted that the call had been initiated by Tsai. He later wrote: “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”
In Taipei, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said, “Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.” Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the “one China” principle was the cornerstone of China-U.S. relations. The People’s Republic hoped that foundation would not be “interfered with or damaged” by Trump’s move, Wang added.
He also blamed Taiwan for what he described as a “petty action,” saying it could not and would not change the acceptance of the “one China” principle internationally. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry announced: “We have already made solemn representations about it (the call) to the U.S. It must be noted that there is only one China in this world.” Beijing urged Washington to abide by its commitment to the “one China” principle and to handle Taiwan-related issues with caution and care. All this was another unexciting episode in the ludicrous diplomatic soap opera that has been Tsai’s tenure. It’s ridiculous for Taipei to claim the Tsai-Trump call was a diplomatic breakthrough. She had it set up and Trump was kind enough to go along.
The soap opera should have ended then and there.
While the call may slow down Tsai’s slide in the polls, it won’t stop it unless the president does something to revitalize Taiwan’s economy. Trump may go on showing more goodwill to Taiwan or baiting the People’s Republic, but after he takes office on Jan. 20, he will most likely readjust and follow the line President Richard M. Nixon set with the help of Henry Kissinger in 1972 with regards to U.S.-China relations.
While the sun is setting on Pax Americana, Americans are loath to admit it. That’s why Trump’s promise to make America great again resonated so well.