Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen had a telephone conversation with US president-elect Donald Trump
on Friday. Trump later tweeted, “The President of Taiwan called today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” An hour after that, he added “Interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”
Since China and the US established diplomatic ties in 1979, no US president or president-elect has made calls to any Taiwan leader. And Trump called Tsai Ing-wen “Taiwan president.” This has thrilled the Green camp in Taiwan. But the fact is Taiwan made a petty gesture before Trump is sworn in, and Trump responded to it.
Since 1979, Washington has upheld the One-China policy, which lays the foundation for the two sides’ efforts to develop relations in a full-fledged way and make bilateral trade the largest in the world. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) hopes the US changes its stance on the One-China policy, but this is unimaginable.
The One-China policy is a widely acknowledged principle in international relations and one of the fundamental rules that shape the contemporary international order. There is no motive in the US or the world that can break the principle, and no power to ensure that adopting a different policy can bring gains.
The world is clearly aware of this, including Taiwan authorities. They know the only thing that can be done to the One-China policy is some marginalized tricks to serve their short-term interests.
Trump is not familiar with foreign relations and has been known for not playing by the rules since he started running for president. Before he gets sworn in, he faces some vague space to handle things. By answering Tsai’s call he may want to test how China would react and therefore prepare him for dealing with the country and gaining some advantage after he takes office.
The Sino-US relationship was formed by the accumulation of interactions between the two societies over the past decades. It is closely connected with the two nation’s interests, which turned into a strong restraint to conflicts between the two sides. If Trump wants to overstep the One-China principle,
he will destroy Sino-US ties. That means the current pattern between Beijing and Washington as well as international order will be overturned. We believe this is not what Trump wants.
However, the DPP is fascinated by the fantasy. Over the years, the Green camp has attached too much importance to Washington’s remarks, tone and attitudes. The DPP tends to jump for joy over tiny issues. Tsai’s administration might be elated right now. But the fact is Trump's taking of the call will not provide more opportunities for independent forces in Taiwan, nor will it help the island’s economic and social development and reverse Tsai’s difficulties in office for not acknowledging the 1992 Consensus.
The Chinese mainland's strength is emerging rapidly while the US is no longer a dominant force in the Taiwan Strait. The US-Taiwan relationship is important to the island, but cross-Straits ties are crucial to Taiwan’s social well-being.
The Chinese mainland is capable of punishing Tsai’s administration for any moves that crosses the red line, and it should use its power without hesitation. It must be the one who defines the status quo. If the Taiwan government ever does anything to break the status quo, it must pay the price. Beijing should better communicate with Trump’s team and be prepared to respond to Trump’s moves after he assumes office.
We should have enough confidence during the process. Trump will take his strong personality to the White House, but he will not face China-US relations with extra powers. It is hoped that Trump will gradually understand the reality and shape his China policy based on it.