Analysts in frenzy after Taiwan call
beijing» On Friday, President Xi Jinping told Henry Kissinger that he hoped for “stability” in U.S.-China ties under the new administration. Nobody told Donald Trump.
The president-elect broke with four decades of diplomatic practice by talking on the phone Friday with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a breach of protocol that could disrupt U.S.-China ties before the inauguration.
The 10-minute phone call is believed to be the first time that a U.S. president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader have spoken since the late 1970s.
It left Beijing fuming and China-watchers the world over wondering, “Is this a slip-up or a major shift?”
The United States formally recognized the government in Beijing as representing China in 1978 and has pursued a “One China” policy since 1972, when then-President Richard M. Nixon visited China. But although the U.S. government ended official relations with Taiwan in 1979, U.S. presidential administrations have maintained unofficial ties with Taiwan, which has become a thriving democracy in recent decades.
Beijing remains hypersensitive to questions of Taiwan’s status and is apt to treat any change in protocol or policy as a provocation — even if it’s just a phone call.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Beijing had lodged an official complaint with the United States. Asked about the incident, Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the call as a “petty” move by Tsai. “The One China principle is the foundation for heathy development of Sino-U.S. relations. We don’t wish for anything to obstruct or ruin this foundation,” Wang said.
Experts predicted continuing anger as Beijing takes stock over the weekend. “This is a heavy blow,” said Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Relations at Nanjing University.
Many questions remain about the conversation between Trump and Tsai. The president-elect tweeted Friday that Tsai called him, rather than the other way around: “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” and “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”
But Tsai’s office later said the call was arranged in advance by both sides.
Analysts are divided on whether it represented a mix-up between the two governments or a more significant signal.
“My guess is that Trump himself doesn’t have clue,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.