All eyes are on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as he offers a glimpse of his future policy toward China. His call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made him the first president or president-elect to talk on the telephone with a leader of Taiwan since bilateral relations between the U.S. and Taiwan were severed in 1979.
China reacted by expressing strong displeasure from the standpoint that the phone conversation ran counter to the “one China policy.” However, Vice President-elect Mike Pence dismissed China’s protest by saying it was just a “courtesy call.’
What is even more noteworthy is the fact that Trump made the following remark about China on his Twitter account: “Did China ask us if it was OK to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!”
Obviously it remains to be seen whether these moves will have anything to do with the President-elect’s official “policy” toward China, but at the very least they indicate his stance of not sitting back and keeping quiet with respect to China. We hope the new U.S. administration will present a comprehensive policy toward China soon.
Trump had already held a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, so it can be said that his talk with the Taiwanese president was for the purpose of striking a balance between China and Taiwan.
Even after the severance of bilateral relations, the U.S. has provided Taiwan with the weapons necessary to defend the Republic of China under the Taiwan Relations Act. In addition, the U.S. has expressed its position that Washington will not accept unilateral changes in the status quo over the Taiwan Strait.
However, China currently maintains an overwhelmingly advantageous position in the military balance across the Taiwan Strait. The Senkaku islands – an inherent part of Japan – are now being threatened by China in the East China Sea, and Beijing is advancing its militarization of illegally-built artificial islands in the South China Sea, All of these grave situations were caused by China.
Trump has raised questions about the cost of defending Japan and other countries. We would welcome his shifting his focus to the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, to the current state of affairs in East Asia.
Before he was elected, Trump referred to imposing an import tariff of 45% on Chinese products and designating the country a currency manipulator. Hardliners toward China within the incoming administration seem to be serious about adopting drastic policies toward Beijing. Perhaps the phone call between Trump and Tsai should be considered in the context of such policies
Because of Trump’s strong language and impulsive behavior, it is difficult to ascertain his actual position and true intentions. Given the fact that Trump is an seasoned businessman, the possibility remains that his remarks will be used as mere bargaining chips for making “deals.”
We hope that Trump will get serious about developing as a politician a principle of not tolerating China’s provocations or hegemony.