Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trump’s Taiwan Move Exposes Weak Pacific Alliances

When president-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of foreign policy by asserting that the U.S. might abandon its acceptance of the “One China” policy and no longer regard Taiwan as a part of China, he provoked predictable outrage from Beijing. By using this threat as a bargaining chip for better trade, Trump led the Chinese government to declare that the One China policy is the “political bedrock” of U.S.-China relations. The Taiwan issue is one of China’s “core interests”, referring to a nonnegotiable policy objective that forms the basis for China’s assertiveness on the international stage.
Beijing was already fuming over Trump accepting a congratulatory phone call from the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen a few days earlier, marking the first official communication between an American and Taiwanese leader since 1979. While Chinese criticism of the move was stern towards the U.S., they struck a harsher tone towards Tsai, with foreign minister Wang Yi referring to the call as a “little trick pulled off by Taiwan.”
While many critics initially speculated that the move was an inadvertent gaffe showing Trump’s inexperience in global politics, advisers have indicated that the call represents a new plan to engage with Taiwan that had been planned for months. With many of Trump’s advisers known for favoring a tough stance towards China, the phone call could represent an overdue normalization of relations with Taiwan and its democratically elected government. The lack of diplomatic relations with Taiwan is an antiquated holdover from the Cold War. Despite widespread criticism of the move throughout the media, this recognition of Taiwan could help to stabilize an increasingly unstable region.

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