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Foreign Affairs Politics

What’s the Big Deal With Taiwan’s Call to Trump?

Written by Philip Hodges

The big deal is first and foremost that Donald Trump did it. If it had been Obama, the media would have praised him, as they did when he and Raúl Castro announced the beginning of good relations between the U.S. and Cuba, dubbed the “Cuban Thaw.”

People are up in arms about Trump accepting a phone call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking what had been sacred U.S. diplomatic protocol since 1979. But Obama can break U.S. diplomatic protocol with a country like Cuba that had been in place since 1961, and it’s a good thing. Trump’s campaign stated:

President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations. During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.

Ted Cruz came to Trump’s defense:

 

 


George Washington’s maxim of ‘friendship with all nations and entangling alliances with none’ comes to mind.

The deal with Taiwan is that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – mainland China – sees Taiwan as theirs. They allow Taiwan to operate in a separate system, but official mainland Chinese policy is that it will eventually be brought under their control.

Taiwan – or the Republic of China (ROC) – wants to be independent. In fact, their current president Tsai Ing-wen won on a campaign of economic independence from PRC. PRC doesn’t like President Tsai. They preferred her opponent Hung Hsiu-chu, who favored closer relations with the mainland. But the people of Taiwan obviously didn’t want that.

So, what’s the United States to do? It’s complicated. We don’t want to upset mainland China, so we’ve refused to officially “recognize” Taiwan as an independent nation by simply not talking with them on a diplomatic basis. The U.S. hasn’t done so since 1979, when we officially recognized the mainland as the real China.

But, we don’t want to completely upset Taiwan either – because we like to trade with them – so we’ll sell them billions and billions of dollars worth of military equipment and weaponry.


Of course, that doesn’t sit too well with big China, because they don’t like Taiwan trying to be independent, and having a foreign country sell them arms is like we’re trying to help Taiwan. In a sense, we are. From a geopolitical standpoint, we’re trying to give the island a little bit of military leverage and regional balance to dissuade any military action against them by Taiwan’s neighbors. We don’t want them attacking Taiwan, because we value an economic relationship with them.

For decades, we’ve all agreed to disagree in order to maintain a certain status quo in Southeast Asia. But what people are refusing to recognize is that the “status quo” is changing. Brexit wasn’t possible, yet it happened. Donald Trump wasn’t possible, yet he won. Even in the case of Taiwan’s president Tsai – I’m sure mainland China didn’t think she was going to win, but she did.

The U.S. is supposed to value independence. After all, that is how the U.S. was born. Taiwan has a right to self-determination. At the same time, it’s none of our official business. If at all possible, we should encourage friendship and trade with all nations, but not be involved in other nations’ entangling alliances.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Philip Hodges

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