Media hysterical over Trump call to Taiwan president
Donald Trump has been calling world leaders person to person since his election last month. This has upset the striped pants faction at the State Department, who are said to be "aghast" that the president-elect has dared try his hand at diplmacy without their guidance and advice.
But the level of media hysteria over Trump accepting a call from Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen is astonishing when you consider China's rather mild response to the diplomatic démarche. China considers Taiwan a "wayward province," as does most of the rest of the world. It is a matter of national pride to the Chinese government that there be no actions taken by another country that would undermine that basic formulation.
So Trump's call upset the Chinese government. Given that they've pretty much been able to run the table on President Obama the last eight years, the call by Trump was like a splash of cold water.
But the media reaction to the casual call of congratulations by President Tsai makes you wonder why they are carrying the Chinese government's water on this issue when the Chinese themselves did little more than lodge a diplomatic protest over the call. A former Bush spokesman said the Chinese "would go nuts" over the call. For the record, they didn't. TPM characterized the call as "dangerous." Vox accused Trump of "throwing decades of US-China policy in disarray."
None of this is true.
The 10-minute telephone call with Taiwan's leadership was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of "one China".
China's Foreign Ministry said it had lodged "stern representations" with what it called the "relevant U.S. side", urging the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.
"The one China principle is the political basis of the China-U.S. relationship," it said.
The wording implied the protest had gone to the Trump camp, but the ministry provided no explanation.
Speaking earlier, hours after Friday's telephone call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointedly blamed Taiwan for the exchange, rather than Trump, a billionaire businessman with little foreign policy experience.
"This is just the Taiwan side engaging in a petty action, and cannot change the 'one China' structure already formed by the international community," Wang said at an academic forum in Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying.
"I believe that it won't change the longstanding 'one China' policy of the United States government."
In comments at the same forum, Wang noted how quickly President Xi Jinping and Trump had spoken by telephone after Trump's victory, and that Trump had praised China as a great country.
Wang said that exchange had sent "a very positive signal about the future development of Sino-U.S. relations", according to the ministry's website. Taiwan was not mentioned in that call, according to an official Chinese transcript.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office also called the conversation a "petty" move by Taiwan that does not change the island's status as part of China. Beijing is resolute in opposing independence for Taiwan, it added.
Trump said on Twitter that Tsai had initiated the call he had with the Taiwan president. "The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!" he said.
Alex Huang, a spokesman for Tsai, said: "Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact."
Trump and Tsai noted that "close economic, political and security ties exist between Taiwan and the United States", the Trump transition team said in a statement. Taiwan's presidential office said the two discussed strengthening bilateral interactions and establishing closer cooperation.
Absolutely nothing will change because of this call. China will still insist on its "one China policy." Taiwan will continue as an independent state, although walking softly around the issue. The U.S. will continue to agree with the one China policy but will also continue giving the island nation the ability to defend itself from invasion.
President Tsai is from a pro-independence party, which may make it easier to negotiate with the mainland. The fact is, over the last decade, China has become a lot more like Taiwan, giving rise to hopes that the frigid relationship between them might be ready for a thaw.
The media should go back to sleep. Trump hasn't blown up the world, and the rather innocuous calls to world leaders don't threaten major upheavals in diplomacy.