What was behind the Tsai-Trump call? What does it mean about US-Taiwan-China relations?
President-elect Donald J. Trump last week seemed to give credence to the claim that the U.S. presidency under him will not be “business as unusual” when he took a call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, breaking nearly four decades of protocol and risking Beijing’s ire.
No sooner had the ten-minute telephone conversation been made public than analysis worldwide began speculating about whether it presaged a shift in U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, the democratic, self-ruled island nation of twenty-three million people, and willingness on the future president’s part to stick it to China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan. Not only the call itself, but a subsequent tweet by Trump stating that he had received a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan rather than using the nation’s official designation, the Republic of China, led many pundits, along with a frenzied international media, to conclude that Trump was signaling a policy shift or, worse, that he did not know what he had gotten himself into and had perhaps been used by President Tsai, who needed to score points domestically.