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Storm in a Teacup? Taiwan’s Leader Speaks With Trump

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (right) spoke by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai. (Images: Wikipedia Commons)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (right) spoke by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai. (Images: Wikipedia Commons)

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called U.S. President-elect Donald Trump by phone on Friday to congratulate him on his election win.

According to media reports, both sides agreed to the call before it was made.

You’d think it wouldn’t be such a big deal — two democratically-elected leaders talking — but many commentators say it is provocative given how sensitive Beijing is about Taiwan.

Taiwan, you see, is for the Chinese Communist Party one of those hyper-sensitive subjects, such as Tibet and Falun Gong.

Before Friday’s call, Jimmy Carter, way back in 1979, was the last U.S. president to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a country that China’s ruling communists consider a breakaway province.

 

 

The challenge for Trump is that he is going against what has been diplomatically set by others before him.

In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon made an agreement with then communist leader Mao Zedong that the U.S. would recognize the communists as the sole rulers of China, including Taiwan.

Prior to this, the U.S. recognized the government of the Republic of China — which had fled to Taiwan after being defeated by the communists in 1949 — as the legitimate rulers of China.

Nixon’s shifting U.S. policy and his embracing of a pro-Beijing one-China policy left Taiwan isolated internationally and allowed for China to take Taiwan’s position at the United Nations General Assembly.

There is of course a lot more to what is a confusing state of affairs. To further explain the one-China policy, see this episode of China Uncensored:

 

 

Part of the problem is that Beijing has warned it will use military force if Taiwan ever actually declared independence.

This makes it one those international flashpoints that some alarmists have said, if it got out of control, could instigate something akin to World War 3.

The U.S. State Department of Defense last year stated that the Taiwan issue was the main reason behind Beijing’s increasing military investment.

Meanwhile, despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties, Washington remains de facto underwriter of Taiwan’s defense.

This means the U.S. remains Taiwan’s most important ally.

Something Trump alluded to in another one of his tweets:

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