【Gordon G. Chang】Why Donald Trump's Taiwan Call Changes Everything
「The National Interest」より転載
What Trump has done is not “reset” Washington’s relations with China but put them on an entirely new footing.
Gordon G. Chang
December 3, 2016
Beijing today lodged a formal protest with the U.S. because President-elect Donald Trump, bypassing established diplomatic channels, spoke to Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen yesterday by telephone.
During the call, each congratulated the otherーTsai captured the presidency in a landslide in mid-Januaryーand both spoke of close relations.
Beijing’s initial reactions, issued by China Central Television, the state broadcaster, and the foreign ministry, were mild, as was the protest, but expect tempers in the Chinese capital to flare in coming weeks.
Why? In a few short minutes over the phone, Trump implicitly recognized Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state, thereby breaking with decades of settled China policy.
The call, as many have noted is the first known interaction between a U.S. president or president-elect with his Taiwan counterpart since the Carter administration broke diplomatic relations with the island.
Regardless of what Trump and Tsai said to each other, the fact the call took place would be sufficient to upset Beijing’s leaders, who view Taiwan as part of their People’s Republic of China.
Tsai, on the other hand, believes she heads a state called the Republic of China. Formally, her government takes the position it has sovereignty over all China but, as a practical matter, acts as if it is sovereign over only the main island of Taiwan and scattered islands it in fact administers.
Washington recognizes Beijing as the lawful government of China but in substance maintains the dispute between the two sides is unresolved and insists the resolution of the matter, when it occurs, be peaceful. The Taiwan Relations Act, U.S. legislation passed in 1979, provides for unofficial ties with Taipei and creates limited obligations to protect the island from Beijing. This American posture has continued, with only minor modification, since that time.
Trump, however, seemed to change everything Friday. “During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States,” notes the readout of the Trump transition team of the historic conversation. “President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.”
Beijing will not miss the fact that Trump called Tsai “President,” an implicit recognition she is the head of a state separate and apart from China. And as if to emphasize the point, he labeled her country “Taiwan.”
Tsai rode to victory as the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, which wants “Taiwan” recognized as a separate state that does not include the “Mainland,” in other words, China.
About two-thirds of the island’s population, in survey after survey, self-identify as “Taiwanese,” in other words, not “Chinese.” Less than five percent call themselves Chinese and not Taiwanese. Beijing is worried that Taiwan, with its growing Taiwanese identity, will formally break away from “China” and declare itself the “Republic of Taiwan.” Tsai has yet to do so, but Trump just did.
And what can make this situation even more explosive? Beijing threatens to use force to absorb Taiwan, and the Communist Party of China primarily bases its legitimacy on its ability to “unify” the “Motherland.”
Significantly, Trump did not inform the White House or State Department beforehand. Nor did he consult what is effectively America’s liaison office in Taipei, the American Institute in Taiwan. All of them would have tried to stop him.
But the president-elect did not owe anything to any of them. As Henry Kissinger told Fareed Zakaria after the election, “he has absolutely no baggage.” His policies are his own, and he will write on his blank slate as he sees fit.
As a result, many are now expressing alarm. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a tweet acknowledged that “consistency is a means, not an end” but suggested Trump’s moves, including the call with Tsai, “are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan.” “That’s how wars start,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote.
Evan Medeiros, former Asia director on the National Security Council, told the Financial Times that Chinese leaders “will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions” and that he is worried “Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition.”
What Trump has done is not “reset” Washington’s relations with China but put them on an entirely new footing. Up to now, Beijing has kept the initiative, and American presidents, especially George W. Bush and Obama, have merely reacted, trying to build friendly relations in spite of increasingly bold Chinese moves. The concept was that Washington had to maintain cooperative ties, increasingly considered an end in itself.
Trump, by seemingly not caring about Beijing’s reaction, has cut China down to size, telling its autocrats he does not fear them.
Just about everyone assumed the Chinese would create a crisis for Trump in his first months in office, just as they created crises for both George W. Bushーin April 2001 with the detention of the crew of the U.S. Navy EP-3ーand his successorーthe harassment of the Navy’s unarmed reconnaissance vessels, the Impeccable and Victorious, in March and May 2009.
Instead, Trump took the initiative and created a crisis for China’s leaders, and he did that more than a month before taking the oath of office.
Therefore, Beijing is bound to find the next months unfamiliar and unsettling.
There is, if you need a metaphor, a rather large bull in the china shop. And, yes, that could be a good thing.
Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang.
【Stop Freaking Out】 Donald Trump’s Taiwan Phone Call Was a Good Thing
For too long, the West has cowered when Beijing huffed and puffed about Taiwan. Trump is finally calling its bluff.
Gordon G. Chang
12.05.16 3:27 AM ET
Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks Donald Trump has just put America on the road to war.
In reality, the opposite may be true. The president-elect may have taken the first steps to stabilize East Asia.
On Thursday and Friday, Mr. Trump spoke over the phone with his counterparts in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Singapore. Yet by far the most controversial, and consequential, conversation occurred on Friday, when he exchanged pleasantries for 10 minutes with Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwan leader.
Trump spoke with Tsai without consulting the White House or the State Department. He also bypassed the American Institute in Taiwan, America’s liaison office in Taipei.
Critics jumped at the lack of coordination. Senator Murphy, in a tweet, called the phone conversations “major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan.” And then the Connecticut Democrat dropped this line on the public: “That’s how wars start.”
Murphy, by raising the prospect of titanic armed struggle, could not have been thinking of Trump’s conversations with Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines or Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. The president-elect may have made a few misguided comments while discussing affairs with them, but these mistakes were innocuous.
The words with Tsai, however, caught everyone’s attention. America has shunned Taiwan since 1979 when President Carter broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei in order to establish them with Beijing. As a result of that policy, today
Washington pretends that a vibrant democratic society of 24 million people is not a country, although it has all the attributes of one.
Pretend no more. The Trump transition team’s readout of the Tsai conversation signaled a momentous shift in direction. The president-elect essentially recognized the island as a sovereign state by calling her “President of Taiwan.”
Beijing, on the other hand, claims Taiwan, taking the view that it is merely the 34th province of the People’s Republic of China.
Because the Trump-Tsai call ignored China’s “core” interest in Taiwan, many analysts and diplomatsーnot to mention junior senators from Connecticutーbelieve Beijing would go to war with the U.S. Murphy, therefore, draws a straight line from the phone call heard round the world to Armageddon.
But perhaps Murphy and others should put the end-of-the-world worries on hold.
Trump did not “wing” that momentous foreign policy decision, as former diplomat Christopher Hill charged Friday evening on CNN. Stephen Yates, on the Trump transition team and a thoughtful voice on China in conservative circles, was reported to have been in Taiwan when the call from Tsai took place, fueling speculation he helped plan the event. Moreover, it would have been unlikely for the cautious Tsai to make the call without knowing in advance it would be answered, especially because a rejected call would create major political embarrassment for her and her party. So the conversation looks like the opening gambit by Trump to reorient China policy.
And despite the hand-wringing from the American foreign policy establishment, documented in a Fox News op-ed by Yates and Christian Whiton, a State Department official in the Bush years, the Tsai call could help avoid conflict.
How so? The Chinese have done an almost-perfect job of convincing others that they are willing to start hostilities if that is what is necessary to win Taiwan. Therefore, most everyone else has been intimidated. Seeing how well belligerence has worked, Beijing has ramped up its tough tactics to bolster its frightening image.
Accordingly, Chinese leaders have, over time, employed more dire-sounding language. In October 2013, for example, Xi Jinping ominously put a time limit on the resolution of the Taiwan problem. “Looking further ahead,” he said to a senior Taiwan envoy, “the issue of political disagreements that exist between the two sides must reach a final resolution, step by step, and these issues cannot be passed on from generation to generation.”
Trump, by calling Taiwan a separate state, indirectly told the Chinese he is not afraid of them, saying, in effect, he does not respect their most important concerns. He is, in a real sense, starting a new relationship with Beijing, putting everything China has won in the past four decades back on the table.
Henry Kissinger, in the Chinese capital in the last few days, has tried to reassure Xi about the inherent stability of U.S. policy. Nonetheless, Trump shortly after told the Chinese he is not interested in pleasing them. The president-elect has, therefore, given them a reason to act more in line with his wishes.
If the Tsai call was to create a bargaining chip, as some believe, Trump could be looking to establish a grand bargain, willing to negotiate trade, North Korea, Taiwan, and a dozen other subjects with nothing out-of-bounds.
It’s more likely, however, that the grand negotiator of Fifth Avenue was reverting to his strong “America First” impulse. If so, Chinese leaders are in for a tough four years.
American policy, from the end of the Cold War to today, has been to put Chinese interests first by trying to integrate China into the existing international system. This extraordinarily generous and patient policy looked like it was working until the end of last century.
Then, achieving success, the Chinese got confident to the point of arrogance and began challenging the American-led system. Those challenges have demonstrated that the assumptions underpinning American policyーthat China would agree to defend the post-Cold War world after becoming its biggest beneficiaryーcould not have been more wrong.
Today, America’s Taiwan policy is unsustainable. That policy, incredibly, undermines a friendly free society to help an authoritarian state that is at the same time attacking American values.
That policy also works against Washington’s efforts to maintain stability in East Asia. Taiwan is the “cork in the bottle,” the land mass in the First Island Chain at the intersection of the South China and East China Seas. The “unsinkable aircraft carrier” prevents the Chinese navy and air force from reaching the Western Pacific and thereby helps contain Beijing’s dangerous expansionism.
But Washington, inexplicably over the course of decades, has sought to weaken Taiwan.
Manyーand not just American Firstersーwonder what’s the point of helping Beijing, an adversary, by forcing a friend, Taiwan, into its arms. Trump, with 10 minutes on the phone Friday, looks like he began correcting America’s biggest foreign policy mistake.