Tsai-Trump phone call not start of new U.S. policy: experts

A phone conversation between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump does not signal a change in Washington’s policy toward Taiwan, experts in international and cross-strait relations said on Saturday.

The conversation, which took place on Friday and lasted for a little over 10 minutes, was the first publicly reported call between a U.S. president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader since 1979, when Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Bao Chengke (包承柯), deputy head of the School of Advanced International and Area Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, told CNA that as of now, it is difficult to determine Trump’s overall strategic thinking toward China, Taiwan and the world.

The phone call was the result of “maneuvering by many people” but does not represent any deliberate policy intent, Bao said.

He said a more important question was whether Trump will still have phone conversations with Tsai after he takes office. If he continues to deal positively with Taiwan in the future, conflict between China and the United States will intensify, Bao predicted.

Sun Zhe (孫哲), director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said Trump was probably not aware how sensitive the issue of Taiwan is in China-U.S. relations.

If Trump had talked to the Chinese side beforehand, he might not have accepted Tsai’s call, Sun said.

He said the call will not seriously impact relations between China and the United States, because the two countries have been developing “a new type of relationship between major powers,” on which Taiwan has only a “marginal impact.”

Yang Lixian (楊立憲), a former deputy secretary-general of the National Society of Taiwan Studies in Beijing, described the phone conversation between Trump and Tsai as “accidental,” suggesting that such contacts are unlikely to continue.

Yang said Beijing insists on the “one China” principle and would reject any attempt by Trump to maintain relations simultaneously with Beijing and Taipei.

If Trump chooses Taiwan, it means he has to give up China, she said.

Chen I-hsin (陳一新), a professor of international relations at Tamkang University in Taipei, said the phone call carried only symbolic meaning because Trump has yet to assume office and there is no need for China to get nervous.

What Beijing should pay attention to is Trump’s policy toward Taiwan after he is sworn in on Jan. 20, Chen said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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