President-elect Donald Trump‘s decision to speak directly to Taiwan has been dubbed an “historic communication” by the Washington Post because no president has communicated directly with the government of Taiwan in almost four decades because of a tacit agreement with the Peoples Republic of China. Communist China does not recognize the sovereignty of democratic Taiwan, which had long claimed to be the legitimate government of the mainland.
Some media outlets have been less generous. The Guardian said that Trump’s call “risks China’s wrath,” New York Magazine says it is a “diplomatic disaster,” while Business Insider said it would “likely to infuriate China.”
Following Trump’s call with the leader of Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-Wen, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi released a statement saying, “The ‘one China’ policy is the cornerstone of a healthy China-U.S. relationship. I hope this political foundation won’t be disrupted or damaged.”
Among the various pundits and talking heads, Fareed Zakaria, the host CNN’s “GPS”, granted that Trump’s move may be politically advantageous and creates “Making some overtures to Taiwan is not a bad idea,” he offered to the “New Day” co-hosts Alysin Camerota and Chris Cuomo.
“People look to American foreign policy as a kind of bedrock of international order,” Zakaria said today. “[For] the substance of it, I think, people are getting a bit too critical. The truth of the matter is we need leverage with China. China is a country that cooperates with the United States on many issues, but on many issues we need to be able to push them harder,” he said.
Referring to Trump’s penchant for circumventing the media by posting on Twitter, Zakaria called it “Twitter-based diplomacy.” He suggested that Trump’s move was hasty. “The key here is that it should be part of a thought-through strategy,” Zakaria continued.
However, the Washington Post reported yesterday that the phone call came as a result of months of patient preparation. The protocol-breaking telephone call with Taiwan’s leader establishes Trump as breaking with the past, but was the product of months of preparation among Trump’s advisors as to who to engage with Taiwan even before he became the Republican nominee.