Monday, December 5, 2016

Taiwan Telephoning


Beijing lodged a formal protest with the U.S. because President-elect Donald Trump, bypassing established diplomatic channels, spoke to Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen by telephone.

45's remarkable display of courtesy and solidarity with a beleaguered democracy will no doubt be welcomed warmly on the island. The Taiwanese are acutely, painfully aware of the lack of respect they command on the global stage.

Far more important, it seemed, than the technical impact of the snubbing—Taiwan's airlines will have to rely on secondhand sources for the latest technical information, an annoyance but hardly a massive setback—was what it represented: a country unfairly maligned and ignored.45's phone call shows that they will be ignored no more.

Even more better -

Trump, by seemingly not caring about Beijing’s reaction, has cut China down to size, telling its autocrats he does not fear them.

Just about everyone assumed the Chinese would create a crisis for Trump in his first months in office, just as they created crises for both 43—in April 2001 with the detention of the crew of the U.S. Navy EP-3—and 44—the harassment of the Navy’s unarmed reconnaissance vessels, the Impeccable and Victorious, in March and May 2009.

Instead, 45 took the initiative and created a crisis for China’s leaders, and he did that more than a month before taking the oath of office.

Therefore, Beijing is bound to find the next months unfamiliar and unsettling.

There is, if you need a metaphor, a rather large bull in the china shop.

And, yes, that could be a good thing.

What 45 has done is not “reset” Washington’s relations with China but put them on an entirely new footing. Up to now, Beijing has kept the initiative, and American presidents, especially 43 and 44, have merely reacted, trying to build friendly relations in spite of increasingly bold Chinese moves. The concept was that Washington had to maintain cooperative ties, increasingly considered an end in itself.