Ten days ago, Donald Trump spoke directly
with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which sent shockwaves through the international community. It was the first direct, high-level communication between the United States and Taiwan in decades, undermining the "One-China" policy, and uprooting decades of carefully crafted, delicate diplomacy that had been honored by both parties.Evidently, our president-elect isn't quite done provoking Beijing. Fox News' Chris Wallace asked
Trump about his approach in an interview that aired yesterday.
WALLACE: You recently took a call from the president of Taiwan, and on the Sunday shows, including ours, some of your top aides said, oh, it was just a congratulatory call. But the next day, some of your top aides said, no, in fact, you had been thinking about this for weeks in advance to send a message. So, which is it?TRUMP: Oh, it's all wrong. No, no. It's all wrong. Not weeks. I took a call. I heard the call was coming probably an hour or two before. I fully understand the One-China policy. But I don't know why we have to be bound by a One-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.
"One China" has been U.S. policy since 1972, U.S. officials recognized Beijing as the legitimate capital of China in 1978; and the U.S. closed its embassy in Taiwan in 1979.This does, however, get complicated
. While we don't officially recognize Taiwan, we do have back-channel talks with the country and we even sell military equipment to the Taiwanese. Navigating these diplomatic waters, while maintaining a healthy relationship with the world's most populous nation -- a burgeoning superpower for the 21st century -- requires delicacy and patience.Donald Trump, however, wants to start breaking stuff, apparently to see what happens.Not surprising, this isn't going over well
"China expresses serious concern on this subject," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters. "If the [one China policy] is compromised or interfered with, any sound and steady development in China-U.S. relations and cooperation in various fields is out of the question."The Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, went further, accusing Trump of being "very childish and impulsive." It said Trump's comments wouldn't be without consequences."China needs to prepare enough ammunition for a roller-coaster ride of the China-U.S. relations with Trump," it said in editorial. "There are many other people in the world that also need to buckle up the seat belts."The newspaper said that "China needs to start a resolute battle with" Trump, adding that "China and other powers in the world are not going to be bullied."
Complicating matters, it's not entirely clear why Trump is doing this. The president-elect apparently thinks he can gain leverage over the Chinese, presumably as part of some kind of future trade negotiations, but it's just as likely to backfire.To revisit our coverage
from 10 days ago, we're collectively moving into unchartered waters. Americans will soon be led by an easily confused amateur, whose erratic behavior creates nothing but uncertainty. It won't be the last time the Republican takes a reckless gamble, just as it won't be the last time much of the world struggles to understand what this man is thinking.