President-elect Trump’s congratulatory telephone conversation with Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, has created a media and political storm with a wide variety of voices adding to the force of the gale.
Although the official reaction from China was muted, Chinese state media described Mr Trump as a novice at world affairs whose call to the Taiwanese president was a blunder rather than an intentional reorientation of US policy in Asia. Chinese media also excused Trump’s contact with Taiwan a political blunder brought on by his “inexperience.” "If Trump wants to overstep the One China principle, he will destroy Sino-US ties," the newspaper wrote.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest questioned the president-elect’s, saying, “I’m not sure how that benefits the United States, and I’m not sure how that benefits the United States relationship with Taiwan. I’m not sure how that benefits the Taiwanese people. I’m not sure how that benefits the U.S. relationship with China.”
Supporters of President-elect had more positive things to say.
- Mike Pence, the vice-president elect, said Mr Trump had simply taken a “courtesy call” from Ms Tsai, as he had done with more than 50 other world leaders.
- Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, said Mr Trump had known “exactly what was happening” in terms of the call’s significance, but that the president-elect was not signalling a major policy shift toward China.
- Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the house and a Trump confidante, meanwhile told Fox News the call was meant to show “Beijing does not dictate who an American president speaks to.”
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, praised Trump. He said he looks forward to “cooperation” with the “clever” Mr Trump.
Meanwhile the president-elect went to Twitter where he blasted Beijing’s monetary policy and its activities in the South China Sea. “Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!”
This phone call between leaders of the U.S. and Taiwan is the first time a US president or president-elect has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979. Since the US formally recognized Mainland China as the official China 40 years ago, Taiwan has not been viewed as an independent state by the U.S. However, the U.S. has cultured an ally-type relationship with Taiwan and trades extensively with the island. China considers Taiwan a renegade province that belongs to Mainland China.