Monday, December 05, 2016


"Most periods between the election of a new US president and the inauguration are relatively quiet, with a bustle of appointment-related activity going on behind the scenes but a lack of hostages to fortune given in public. As president-elect, Donald Trump seems determined to up-end this tradition. If not necessarily settling on irrevocable policies that will bind him in office, he is setting out a stall that could radically change US strategy. It was the turn of Taiwan and its relationship to China on Friday. By taking a single phone call from Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, and referring to her by that title, Mr Trump threw 40 years of established practice into question. In fairness, he is right — if indeed this is his aim — to point out America’s contradictory attitude to the self-governed and democratic island.... The US attitude to Taiwan since it was set by Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1979 could be described as constructive hypocrisy. America professes to support Taiwanese democracy and sells it arms to defend itself from its powerful neighbour, while at the same time adhering to a “one-China” policy and refusing to recognise Taiwan as an independent country. For a long while, this was a stable position that has kept the peace in a potentially inflammatory situation. But Beijing’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, particularly in the South China Sea, has made it more unstable. The US has looked ever more passive in the region and the timidity of its approach may have emboldened China. The Obama administration reacted to China’s building of artificial islands and militarisation of the South China Sea by sailing some ships and flying a few jets through the region in “freedom of navigation” exercises. China shrugged off these actions and carried on building military bases in the disputed waters. Beijing’s initial response was to downplay news of the phone call. Unless Mr Trump doubles down on the provocation, China may simply bide its time and wait for him to enter the Oval Office, assuming this is the action of someone who has not had time to consider the issues at length".
Leader, "Trump’s dangerous provocation over Taiwan: The president-elect should assume office before changing policy". The Financial Times. 5 December 2016, in
"However, Trump fueled the fire on Sunday by complaining about Chinese economic and military policy on Twitter, while on Monday an economic adviser to Trump, Stephen Moore, said if Beijing did not like it, "screw 'em." Analysts, including senior former U.S. officials, said the call appeared to be at least an initial shot across China's bow to signal a tougher approach to Beijing, which includes plans for a buildup in the U.S. military, in part in response to China's growing power in the Asia-Pacific region. Jon Huntsman, reportedly among the candidates to become Trump's secretary of state, was quoted by The New York Times as saying at the weekend that Taiwan might prove a "useful leverage point" in dealings with China. Trump adviser and China hawk Peter Navarro, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, another in the mix for the top U.S. diplomatic role, have both proposed using degrees of escalation on Taiwan to pressure China to step back from its pursuit of territory in East Asia. Navarro, who has produced books and multipart television documentaries warning of the dangers of China's rise, has suggested stepped up engagement with Taiwan, including assistance with a submarine development program. He argued that Washington should stop referring to a "one-China" policy, but stopped short of suggesting it should recognize Taipei, saying “there is no need to unnecessarily poke the Panda.” Bolton though, in an article in January, countenanced a "diplomatic ladder of escalation" that could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department and lead to restoring full diplomatic recognition".
David Brunnstrom, "Trump fires opening salvo in risky test of wills with Beijing". Reuters. 5 December 2016, in
'Dangerously provocative' or a 'one tweet' policy? That is the crux of the discussion currently about American President-Elect Donald Trump's telephone conversation with the President of Formosa and his subsequent 'tweets' attacking the regime in Peking this week-end just past. One does not have to like in the least Mr. Trump (as I do not) to au fond agree with his more aggressive views on Sino-American relations. And while similarly one does not have to have a very high opinion of the diplomatic talents of Messieurs Navarro and Bolton, et. al., to agree with them that the course of Sino-American relations since the late 1990's has been one long trend of benign neglect and or appeasement of the very worst sort. That the current regime in Peking is for Primat der Innenpolitik reasons pursuing an increasingly aggressive and revanchist policy in the Far East. And that only a consistent policy of militarized containment by the Americans and their allies will put a stop to Peking's dangerous and provocative policies. It is in fact Peking's consistently aggressive policies in the Far East in the past half-dozen years which is 'dangerously provocative'. Choosing to ignore or minimize it, will only make an eventual military confrontation between the Americans and Peking more rather than less likely. In this instance if in not much else, Mr. Trump (or more likely his advisors) has a better read on the diplomatic situation than the current American administration. One can only hope that it is in fact more than merely a 'one tweet' policy.


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