Last week, Trump set off a controversy when he took a congratulatory phone call from the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. Supposedly receiving this phone call represents a breach of precedent that the U.S. has followed since the time of President Nixon, called “One China” which recognizes Taiwan as part of China and not its own sovereign state. Beijing’s response was muted but the Communist paper the People’s Daily said “this did ring a warning bell for the direction of Sino-U.S. relations.”
The White House, instead of letting the matter ride took the opportunity to take “last licks” at Trump before Obama vacates the White House. White house spokesman John Earnest was quoted saying: ”Some of the progress we have made in our relationship with China could be undermined by this issue flaring up.” He suggested, hinting to Trump’s inexperience, that Trump should begin taking briefings from the U.S. State Department ahead of future conversations with foreign leaders.
On the other hand Trump does not see anything wrong with what he did for many reasons. Firstly, Trump doesn’t think China plays fair by devaluing its currency and making it hard for the U.S. to export to China. Secondly, China has been very aggressive in the South China Sea dredging up the sea and creating islands which are now military bases and airfields. Thirdly, China maintains trade with the belligerent North Korea effectively ruining the isolation and sanctions the free world place on North Korea. For these three reasons Trumps sees a “One China” policy as something viable only if China starts to play fairly.
Fourthly and perhaps most basic is that no one should dictate to Trump who can talk to him and who can’t. The Taiwanese president called him and proper manners would dictate to be polite and receive the call. Even if Trump were to call her, does China have the right to dictate if Trump can make such a call? For that matter, is the State Department a branch of the Chinese Government that it needs to kow-tow to their whims. Perhaps the world got used to a soft and weak United States. Thank G-d that Trump is not afraid to play hardball and he will re-educate the world a bit on how to play fairly.