A controversial well-meaning telephone call from Taiwan’s president, Tsai-Ing-Wen to President-Elect Donald Trump to extend a mazal-tov on his election in the name of the Taiwanese government and its 23,519,518 population has sparked an international crisis between the United States and the Peoples’ Republic of China. It was a phone call which could lead to war.
Donald Trump did not make the phone call. He was merely the recipient of good wishes from the president of Taiwan. While some advised him not to take the call, President-Elect Trump considered it rude to reject well-meaning good wishes from an American ally.
In doing so, however, he broke four decades of American policy and in so doing, he caused tremendous anger in China. No other American president since 1979 has spoken directly to any Taiwanese leader.
China considers Taiwan, like Hong Kong and Macau, a break-away province and the Chinese demand its reunification with mainland China.
While U.S. policy is “One China”, it nevertheless recognizes Taiwan as a legitimate sovereign state and provides it with an abundance of advanced sophisticated weapons to defend itself against a Chinese invasion.
A question was raised if President-Elect Trump was intent on a new policy or did he simply accept a congratulatory phone call. In raising China’s ire by his conversation with President Tsai, he additionally infuriated Beijing by taking a tough position on Chinese trade and its military activities in the South China Sea.
On December 4th he asked “Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency, making it harder for our companies to compete or to heavily tax our products going into their country (the United States does not tax them) or is it OK to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?”
President Obama’s office hastily made two telephone calls to Beijing to assure them that there will be no changes in policy before January 20th.
But once President-Elect Donald Trump is inaugurated as President Donald Trump, no one can guess what changes, if any, he will make in America’s foreign policy.
If China declares war, will it prevent so many American Jews from eating in their favorite Chinese restaurants?
As one neighbor jokingly remarked to me, “So what’s the big deal? Trump spoke to Taiwan’s president. Believe you me, if my mother-in-law dared to call me, there would really be a war”.