By I-fan Lin
US President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on December 2 that the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen, called him to offer her congratulations for winning the US election — breaking with decades of US protocol. Shortly afterward, he questioned in an interview, “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.”
As Wikipedia correctly explains, the “one China” policy refers to the idea that there is only one state called “China”, so countries that want diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China must break official ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and vice versa.
Soon after Trump’s interview aired on Fox News, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, or FAPA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that seeks to build worldwide support for Taiwan’s independence, published a statement:
We at FAPA are heartened to see President-elect Trump challenge the outdated “One China Policy”. Taiwan has never been a part of the People’s Republic of China.
However, Taiwan’s right to self-determination and democracy should not be a bargaining chip. Using Taiwan in any sort of “deal” with China is against the very ideals on which our nation is founded.
This statement reflects that many Taiwanese are unsure if Trump is just using Taiwan as leverage to negotiate with China, or if he really wants to re-evaluate the US-Taiwan relationship.
For example, June Lin, a policy fellow at the very same Formosan Association for Public Affairs, was annoyed by Trump putting the “one China policy” alongside possible trade dealings. She quoted Trump, then commented:
Trump tried to be free and easy, but he is very specific about the exchange deal: ‘Who cares [about the the one China policy]?—Unless you give me A and B and C, or I won’t give a damn.’
If his words were put on his Twitter account, I guess the capitalized word would be TRADE????
This is annoying…
As the geopolitics in the South China Sea and East China Sea changes, the US has moved seemingly more and more towards a new paradigm in manifesting its military strength. Under the administration of President Barack Obama, the US government has strengthened strategic ties with Taiwan. The US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act and the “Six Assurances” this April, which reaffirms Taiwan’s position as an “important partner” to the U.S.
In May, when the US House of Representatives passed the military budget for 2017, there was an amendment that directs the US secretary of defense to grant Taiwan military forces observer status in maritime exercises known as the Rim of the Pacific Exercise. In addition, on December 8, the US Senate passed the annual defense policy bill, including a provision recommending that the US conducts yearly high-level military exchanges with Taiwan.
Though Trump’s Twitter performance has been viewed as a more proactive move to reaffirm the strategic partnership, Taiwanese are still worried that Trump as a businessman is only using Taiwan to negotiate a better trade deal with China. Taiwan is a de facto independent country, but authorities in mainland China don’t see it that way — and so they don’t take kindly to moves they perceive as recognizing the Taiwanese government.
Furthermore, some Taiwanese were also aware of former US statesman Henry Kissinger’s presence in Beijing while Trump tweeted about his phone call with the Taiwanese president. To them, Trump’s behaviors embody Kissinger’s philosophy of diplomacy, which centers on unpredictability. But would Taiwan be able to survive under such diplomacy, the same that saw the US bombing Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in the late 1960s into the 1970s?
Jou Yi-Cheng, a social activist and a former politician, also had concerns about Trump’s fast pace on negotiating with China:
If Trump is trying to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip, China doesn’t seem interested in playing. For Chinese politicians, Taiwan is considered to be one of the utmost core interests of China, not to be bargained. They actually might rather negotiate with Taiwanese for a new cross-strait framework since when it comes to Taiwan they have much more to offer (or to threaten).
Some Taiwanese, however, believe that crisis is an opportunity even if Taiwan is used as a chip in US-China negotiations. Yu-His Liu, an economics researcher, said:
A user named Azuel analyzed the situation on PTT, the most popular bulletin board system in Taiwan, and his comment echoed with Liu:
Taiwan is the fulcrum. It can support the balance, but a small misjudgment would upset the balance.
Calculation is needed based on the new situation we face every day. There is no unchangeable season.
To summarize, this first card can be considered to be a good one in the foreseeable future, but we need to observe the facial expressions of all the players carefully when the cards are lifted one by one.