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A View From Taiwan: Five Key Points On Trump’s Phone Call With Tsai Ing-wen

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Copyright: 總統府/Source: Flickr

Expert on Taiwanese politics, Chun-an Chen explains that while many argue that Trump violated the US government’s long-standing policy on China, from the Taiwanese perspective, there are still several points to be made.

After what Taiwan considered a successful phone conversation between Tsai Ing-wen and President-elect Donald J. Trump, the public got to read the news on Twitter reflecting Trump’s position on supporting Taiwan.

During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized China, but also condemned China for stealing US jobs and for creating an unfair advantage in global trade. Trump also mentioned imposing a tariff of 45 percent on all imports from China.

However, within Trump’s remarks on Asian affairs, there are contradictions. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), for example, is an important policy of the Obama administration to “pivot to Asia” in order to curb strong economic rivals – China. Trump believes that the US should withdraw from the TPP, and this approach will enable China to continue to expand its influence in Asia and ASEAN countries.

Another example is that Trump suggested that Japan, South Korea, Germany and other countries with US troops, should be 100% responsible for US military presence expenses. The above proposition would reduce the role of the United States as the world’s police, and China would be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

However, when Trump becomes the president, the Western cowboy’s domineering style of speech will also be adjusted to better suit the system. President-elect  Donald J. Trump may have noticed that the absence of the United States in Asia would cause China to swiftly expand its influence.

Phone Call with Taiwan

Trump spoke on Twitter for the first time, “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”.

Later, in his signature tweeting style, cutting through hypocrisy, he said: “Interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call “.

Apparently, Trump received many comments about this tweet right away with many arguing that his remarks are contrary to the US government’s long-standing policy on China.

However, from the Taiwanese point of view, there are several points worth noting.

1. Trump contacts four Asian leaders, including leaders from Taiwan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Singapore. But especially in his Tweet, he made the following reference: “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”

It seems Mr Trump knows very well that Taiwan is an independent political entity. In this period without political staff modification of text, Trump inadvertently stated the facts.

2. Trump’s second post on Twitter said: “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call”.

President-elect Donald J. Trump inadvertently broke US diplomatic practice with Taiwan which meant that he would soon receive different opinions.

Trump, in his well-known ironic demeanor, has both reflected his sense of humor regarding the Taiwan issue, and has also reflected his accepting attitude regarding the Taiwanese President’s congratulatory call, implying that he believes the call was a  reasonable means of expressing congratulations.

3. The Taiwanese have no intention or initiative to provoke China. However, the Taiwanese people are increasingly dissatisfied with the political pressure on China. Because China’s long-term blockade of Taiwan’s diplomatic space requires countries to recognize or not  that Taiwan is part of China.

Therefore, Taiwan’s new generation is quite dissatisfied with China, saying that Taiwan is Taiwan and it is definitely not a part of China.

The Taiwanese generally welcome Trump’s remarks, but the Taiwanese government knows that China will certainly take action. As a result, the Taiwanese president has dealt with this matter in a low-key manner and avoided China’s excessive rebound.

4. Ms. Tsai was appointed President of Taiwan on May 20, 2016. President Tsai had promised many times, that she  will ” build a consistent, predictable, and sustainable cross-strait relationship.” And “will work to maintain the status quo for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.

China is still not satisfied, and has also asked President Tsai to make it clear that the Taiwanese government needs to recognize “one China.” But China failed to do so, and began to take political means to oppress Taiwan. From 520 to date, by reducing Chinese tourism to Taiwan, the total number of Chinese tourists has been confirmed to reduce by more than one-third.

5. Finally, with democratic elections, Taiwan’s public opinion completely negates the one-China policy.

China’s policy toward Taiwan has been tumbling over the past few years. After Trump’s usage of the term “Taiwan president”, China will carefully observe the role of the United States in Asia during Trump’s presidency.

On the other hand, China will continue to put pressure on Taiwan by reducing tourists and resisting Taiwan’s participation in international activities. After all, Trump’s cross-strait policy still needs further observation.

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About the author

Chun-an Chen

Chun-an Chen

Chun-an Chen is the Former Director of Tourism Bureau, Tainan City Government, Taiwan

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