On Friday, Donald Trump made a huge diplomatic faux pas. Those of us who think about these things and who realize just how crucial international relations are, knew without a doubt that this would be a problem, as Trump acts without thinking. But I at least thought it would be sometime after his inauguration in January. But no, he simply could not wait to open his mouth and possibly undo more than three decades of relation-building work between the U.S. and China.
An article in The Intellectualist sums it up quite concisely:
With Single Phone Call Today, Trump Harms Decades Of U.S.-China Relations:
1) A U.S. President or President-Elect has not called the President of Taiwan since 1979. It is against U.S.-China relations to do so.
2) Today, Trump called the President of Taiwan today to wish her congratulations on her election win. This is a clear break in U.S. diplomatic tradition.
3) From 1949-1979, the U.S. recognized the government of Taiwan as the legal representative of China, since the mainland government was communist.
4) From 1979 onward, the U.S. formally recognized the People’s Republic of China (China) as the true government of China.
5) While the U.S. doesn’t formally recognize Taiwan, it does guarantee its security against China.
6) China considers Taiwan a renegade province, not a sovereign country.
7) Trump did not tell the Obama administration that it was formally calling Taiwan’s president, as this would be a major break in U.S. – China relations.
8) China has yet to respond to Trump’s aggressive action, but its reaction will likely be furious.
Yes, Trump accepted what was apparently a pre-arranged phone call from Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, the first president or president-elect to have direct contact with the government of Taiwan since 1979 when the U.S. ceased to recognize the government of Taiwan and broke off diplomatic relations. A Trump spokesperson said the two leaders discussed “the close economic, political, and security ties” between Taiwan and the United States and that Trump “also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.”
This was by no means his first controversial phone call to a foreign leader since his election on November 8th.
- On December 2nd, in a phone call with Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump endorsed Duterte’s violent anti-drug campaign whereby thousands have been murdered, causing concerns of human rights abuses by President Obama, the United Nations, and others.
- In a November 30th conversation with Kazakhstan’s leader, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, Trump praised him, saying that his successful leadership was “a miracle”. Nazarbayev is an authoritarian communist leader who has been accused repeatedly of human rights abuses.
- Also on November 30th, he spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who tendered an invitation to Trump to visit Pakistan. This is touchy, as it is almost certain to upset the delicate balance of India-Pakistan ties, which the U.S. has struggled to manage amid a history of wars and recent skirmishes.
- On November 17th, Trump met with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, at his headquarters in Trump Tower. Rather than inviting State Department officials to the meeting, he invited his daughter Ivanka, which was seen as a break with protocol and confusing to Mr. Abe, as Ivanka has no official government role.
- Immediately following official word of his election win, Trump began calling world leaders. The UK, being one of our strongest allies, should certainly have been among the first, but it was December 10th before Trump spoke with Prime Minister Theresa May, and that after he had already spoken with nine other world leaders. Although Trump issued a more-or-less formal invitation to Nigel Farage, he blew off Ms. May by saying “If you travel to the US you should let me know.” He later added insult to injury by suggesting in one of his notorious tweets that Britain should send his buddy Nigel Farage here as ambassador to the U.S. – a statement that is highly inappropriate.
And all this more than a month before he will be inaugurated! It would seem that Mr. Trump should have better spent his time during the last 18 months by reading and learning about the U.S.’ relations with other countries and what is considered appropriate behaviour for a president!
The concern regarding his conversation with Taiwan’s President Tsai is the likely reaction from China. According to a senior State Department official, the fallout from the Trump-Tsai conversation could be significant. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has adamantly opposed the attempts of any country to carry on official relations with it. Initial reaction from China about Friday’s telephone call was surprise verging on disbelief. “This is a big event, the first challenge the president-elect has made to China,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “This must be bad news for the Chinese leadership.” Among diplomats in the United States, there was similar shock. “This is a change of historic proportions,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a former senior director of Asian affairs in the Obama administration. “The real question is, what are the Chinese going to do?” New York Times, 02 December 2016
“What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy.
Those ‘disaffected’ Americans who voted for Trump may not, probably will not, understand nor care about the ramifications of these calls and Trump’s ignorance of foreign policy matters, but the rest of us understand all too well. The Trump supporters are concerned only about the few things that will directly and immediately affect them, such as jobs, guns, and taxes. Trump has spewed isolationist rhetoric since the beginning of his campaign, saying he would break foreign trade treaties, withdraw from Nato, and refuse to help our allies except under certain conditions. But that is not the world we live in today. Globalization, like it or not, is here to stay. We must work with other nations on developing friendly relations, protecting the environment, and a host of other issues. Trump is undermining, if not outright destroying, years of work toward friendly relations between the U.S. and other nations, and that can only end badly for all. There can no longer be any doubt that the man is woefully under-educated, inexperienced and unqualified for the office of president.