If there is a message that President-elect Trump is trying to send to the leaders of China by ‘chatting’ over the telephone with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen last Friday, December 1, 2016, it is that he is a ‘no pushover’.
China can protest all they want as they have done already against this affront to their claimed sovereignty over the island nation that they consider part of their national territory, but Trump is firm about being courteous to a congratulatory call from a duly elected Head of State such as Tsai as he was with other controversial leaders like Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Philippines’ President Duterte.
But of course it goes beyond courtesy. Trump in essence is telling China that he can talk to anyone he wants and he is not bound by diplomatic traditions. After all, his rise in power is itself untraditional. And so is his method of governance as demonstrated thus far by his selection of nominees for his cabinet.
The assertion that Trump is dangerously playing with fire by irritating the folks in Beijing by giving credence to the leadership in Taipei with a signal of a possible change in diplomatic preference between the two Chinas, is simply weak and has no traction. What Trump did was deliberate. If they are smart enough they should realize that come January 20, 2017 they will be dealing with a strong and very wise leader who is a master negotiator who knows what he is doing. Until then we will not fully know what motivated him to do what no US President has done since 1979. Until then his policies will not be officially instituted and that includes his inclinations, if any, as regards the two Chinas.
One should note that for every important event there is always something going on behind the scene. In all likelihood the Taiwan call was inspired if not orchestrated by Trump’s appointee to the position of Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao, wife to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Taiwan–born Chao is an experienced and well respected cabinet member in both of the two President Bushes. Will she be a strong influence to Trump in his dealings with Bejing? The answer will more than help to unravel the future of the tale of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China as seen within Trump's purview.