The recent revelation that President-elect Donald Trump had accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s President sent many segments of the U.S. and international foreign policy bien pensant community into a flutter. This call had been arranged by Trump’s team and the Taiwanese Government for some time before it occurred. Nevertheless, the Beijing bootlickers worked themselves into a frenzy because this call allegedly violated diplomatic protocol and the “sacrosanct” One-China Policy.
A little historical background is in order. After the triumph of the Communists in mainland China in 1949, the anti-communists survivors of the Chinese Civil War retreated to Taiwan. Over the next several decades they have evolved from an authoritarian government into a vibrant democracy with a first-rate economy which is strong in many areas including high technology. In fact, when I bought my first personal computer in 1993 it was a Taiwanese made Acer.
China has refused to accept that it is the mandate of heaven that Taiwan survive and flourish. Beijing continues regarding Taiwan as a “renegade province” and has periodically attempted to coerce it militarily. This happened when artillery assaults against the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu in the 1950s which required some level of U.S. military intervention. In 1996 Taiwan’s President was invited to speak at his alma mater Cornell University. Beijing worked itself up into such a frenzy over this that it conducted missile strikes in the Taiwan Strait and required the insertion of two U.S. Navy carrier task forces into these waters to keep the Chinese from actually launching an invasion of Taiwan. This is actually one of the few good things Bill Clinton ever did.
In 1979, the U.S. decided to establish formal diplomatic relations with China and “break” such relations with Taiwan. However, we still maintain an “interests section” instead of an embassy in Taiwan and periodically sell weapons to Taiwan to enable it to maintain a somewhat credible defense posture under provisions of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The U.S., and most of the international community, have subsequently kowtowed to Beijing by insisting on the fiction that there is only one China and that Beijing is the capital of China. This is nonsense as there are significant concentrations of Chinese in many countries around the world. Taiwan, whose capitol is Taipei, is another China and a nation which should be emulated in many ways.
It is to be hoped that this call between Trump and the Taiwanese President will result in increased bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan and that other countries will be inspired to tell Beijing that it cannot be a mature and responsible international stakeholder if it continues to think it can bully Taiwan into submission. Once Trump becomes President, he should begin the process of restoring normal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, inviting their President for a state visit with all due honors, and Congress should let the Taiwanese President address a joint session of Congress. We should also be willing to sell Taiwan whatever weaponry it needs to defend its sovereignty and increase U.S. military and intelligence cooperation with Taipei.
China must understand that it is a great nation without Taiwan and that it should quit using its considerable economic and growing military power to coerce Taiwan into reunification. The recent conversation between Trump and Taiwan’s President should start a process when such communication between the leaders of these countries becomes routine and does not make front page news or serve as the lead story on newscasts or web postings. Taiwan should become a coequal partner in the international community and Americans and nationals from other freedom loving nations should go out of their way to purchase Taiwanese products and services and visit Taiwan on their vacations. Businesses from these countries should also invest in Taiwan and increase that country’s integration into the global community to an even greater level. We can only hope the Trump Administration will have the courage to continue and sustain what it has started and represent a quantum transformation in U.S. diplomatic and strategic policy in East Asia and the Western Pacific.