On Geopolitics

Taiwan, Trump and a Telephone: How a Simple Act Called Out a Contradiction in U.S. Diplomacy

Rodger Baker
Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor
Dec 6, 2016 | 08:21 GMT
Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen telephone call with US President Donald Trump
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Despite commentators' speculation, it is very unlikely that either Tsai or Trump made the call without giving it careful consideration first.
(Reuters)

With his characteristic bluntness, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has, at least briefly, wiped away some diplomatic niceties and sent China a clear message: If Beijing wants to sit at the grown-ups' table, it will have to act like an adult. His method for doing so? A 10-minute phone call to the president of Taiwan. But passing such a message isn't as simple as it sounds. The phone call broke a 40-year diplomatic precedent, something no U.S. president or president-elect has done since Washington withdrew its recognition of Taipei in the 1970s in exchange for closer ties with Beijing. For decades, the United States has stuck to the "one-China" policy, which says that the government in Beijing is the only legal representative of China. Yet at the same time Washington maintained its lines of communication with Taiwan, including trade deals and arms sales. This dual approach is predicated on the United...

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