Donald Trump committed his third major diplomatic faux-pas just this week when he called the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, breaking decades of established protocol. He was the first president-elect to do so since 1979 when the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island nation in order to recognize the government of Beijing as the legitimate government of China.
Taiwan, was established in 1949 when Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang lost the Chinese Civil War against Mao Zedong and the People’s Liberation Army and fled to the island of Taiwan, where they established a government-in-exile (Republic of China) that still claims dominion over mainland China (the People’s Republic of China). The United States supported the claim of the ROC until 1979 and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the PRC.
Tensions between the ROC and the PRC are still very high and Donald Trump’s phone call will be seen as an enormous provocation to mainland China. “The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions. Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for U.S.-China relations” says Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House National Security Council.
Legendary journalist Dan Rather took to Facebook today to share his thoughts, accurately summarizing the gravity of the situation.
I have said before that there are no training wheels to becoming president, and we may have seen the effects of that today.
Reports are ricocheting across the news media and the diplomatic world that Donald Trump has become the first United States President or President-elect to speak directly with the leader of Taiwan in decades.
There is no bigger touchstone to the stability of the far rim of the Pacific than the issue of Taiwan. We do not yet know what precipitated this apparent gross breach of established American protocol, but the damage may already have been done. This is deeply serious business. You can expect that the government in Beijing is burning up the trans-Pacific communications with some version of “what the hell is going on?” They will likely make their displeasure, if not fury, known very quickly.
There’s is nothing would concern the Mainland Chinese more than to have a suspicion that American foreign policy will change. We can guess that this was something Trump and his advisors didn’t think through. Or maybe it was meant to be provocative. Regardless, someone needs to tell the President-elect that this isn’t some “reality-show” that you can fix in the editing room.
Donald Trump isn’t even the President yet and in one week he has told one of the world’s largest supporters of terrorism that he will do anything it takes to “fix their problems,” invited a murderous madman to the White House, and seriously angered our biggest geopolitical rival. He is a bumbling fool who cannot be trusted to run this country.
And just to set the record straight before the gaslighting begins:
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.