Can we trust Trump on cross-strait relations?

The China Post News Staff

Donald Trump is at it again. He has now applied his habit of speaking off the cuff and letting others pick up the pieces to the “One China” policy — a cornerstone principle, (whether we like it or not,) that has shaped the so-called status quo across the Taiwan Strait. As we are now witnessing, Trumpian foreign policy has two sides. On the one hand, there is Trump’s tendency to issue brash statements that catch the Washington foreign policy establishment off guard, as he did when he accepted a congratulatory call from President Tsai Ing-wen. But the other side is much more calculated and consists of a core group of cold warriors with far-right and neo-conservative political leanings, who are pushing for the U.S. to take a confrontational stance toward China. The two aspects work in concert.

The architects of the “one China” policy formed their core beliefs in the context of a simpler ideological landscape: capitalism versus communism, domino theories and proxy wars. What the neoconservatives want is a return to simpler times: a realist foreign policy that clearly distinguishes friend from foe, under which “the enemy of an enemy is a friend.” This paradigm worked for Taiwan during the Cold War when the world was divided down ideological lines.

But it’s not so today, which is why Taiwanese politicians who were elated last week are now balking in the face of an international spotlight shone on Taiwan by the Tsai-Trump phone call. Enabled by Trump’s brashness and the calculations of his advisers, the spotlight has revealed Taiwan’s geopolitical vulnerabilities and the Tsai administration’s dilemma over where to stand amid a potentially shifting geopolitical order. While the Taiwanese government believes it is making strategic moves to secure its interests with the rise of a Republican presidency — a party that has historically supported Taiwan — Trump’s Fox News remarks on Sunday are the first sign that Taiwan may be in a much more precarious position under post-Obama Sino-U.S. relations. We have reason to be concerned, not because of Trump’s capricious nature and personal antics, but because of who he has chosen to surround himself with. He has attracted numerous foreign policy hardliners associated with former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a proponent of aggressive, unilateral, (cue axis-of-evil soundbites), disastrous military campaigns used to further the gains of corporate elites through profitable government contracts. We understand that any Taiwanese leader, regardless of party, must garner favor with the United States for support — this has been a key policy for decades and will probably continue to be for years to come. But rather than play into perceptions of popular support, our government must carefully consider the real costs of “recognition diplomacy.”