In just over a month since winning the 2016 presidential election -- and more than that away from even assuming the duties of President -- it would seem Donald Trump has withstood more media scrutiny than Barack Obama did during his entire eight years in office. From who Trump is considering for cabinet positions, to simply having a steak dinner without the media asking him what on the menu looks good, Trump’s every move is dissected by a Mainstream Media machine looking for the tiniest slip-up. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen would send steam shooting from their ears.
“Honestly, this is just *insane*,” MSNBC flack Chris Hayes feverishly pecked on Twitter after reports of the call; joined by others in the liberal media basically accusing Trump of being “ignorant” to the diplomatic differences between “China” (as in the People’s Republic of China, or PRC) and “Taiwan” (as in the Republic of China, or ROC), and bemoaning how it might provoke the Chinese. However, just as he was constantly underestimated by the media during the entire campaign season, I suspect Trump knew exactly what he was doing by taking the call.
Beyond merely the raging antipathy liberals in the media have for Trump, they claim Trump has no right to violate a four-decades-long “One China” policy that ignores our long-time ally of Taiwan, in favor of the Beijing regime. This is utter nonsense. The ROC is a sovereign nation; albeit one that the U.S. and most other nations have decided is less important diplomatically than the PRC. However, there is no impediment under international or U.S. law for someone in the U.S. communicating with an official from Taiwan. Given the many recent (and unprovoked) belligerent actions of the Chinese against the Taiwanese, the U.S., and other nations in the Pacific rim (the fly-bys of Taiwan by Chinese war planes, the creation of man-made, military “islands” in international waters, to name just a few examples), it is perhaps more important than ever such communications exist.
Presidents, beginning with Jimmy Carter and continuing to the current occupant of the White House, may be okay with treating Taiwan like a cross-eyed step child, but considering the increasingly cozy Sino-Russian relationship, which clearly is aligned against the long-term strategic interests of the United States, it may be far better to have a President who is willing to buck the status quo. While the U.S. and other nations may have decided in previous decades -- for whatever reason(s) -- to recognize diplomatically “One China,” it certainly does not mean we should never reevaluate that position, or refuse to deal with a long-term and consistent strategic ally like Taiwan. In fact, a more open dialogue with Taiwan may perhaps even improve our military posture vis-à-vis the PRC, and our negotiations (direct and indirect) regarding Beijing.
The only way to truly know is to make the first step, which Trump already has done.
More importantly, perhaps, is the message Trump is sending to the world with “The Call.” For the last eight years, American foreign policy was crafted by feckless bureaucrats in the Obama Administration, whose default position in engaging with other nations, especially other superpowers, was one of submission. Obama has been shown repeatedly to be vastly outmatched by Putin on the global scale, looking much like a wimp crying at a bully during Russia’s hostilities against Ukraine in a crisis that continues to this day. Also, let us not forget that Obama unthinkably paid a ransom to Iran, just to gain its cooperation in a nuclear deal in which Tehran had the upper hand from the very get-go. As it has been said many times, Obama has stood flatfooted and paralyzed in fear as the world continues to crumble in the absence of real leadership coming from the United States.
If the call with Taiwan is any indication, the routine posture of submission looks to change dramatically under President Trump. “The president of the United States should talk to whomever he wants if he thinks it's in the interest of the United States,” said former UN Ambassador John Bolton of Trump’s now-historic call. “And nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to.” Such a bold attitude towards American exceptionalism is a welcomed change in international relations. And all it took was a single phone call.