Professor Pei-te Lien interviewed about Trump's phone call from Taiwan's president

Following President-Elect Donald Tump's phone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, Professor Pei-te Lien was interviewed by KPCC and what it might mean for future U.S. relations with China and Taiwan.

By making a congratulatory phone call to President-elect Trump on Dec. 2, Taiwan’s President Tsai has trumped relations between US and China.  The phone call is seen as a major diplomatic breakthrough for Taiwan’s government in US-Taiwan relations since 1979, when the US government finally recognized the mainland-based PRC rather than the Taiwan-based ROC as the sole and legitimate government of China. The reversal in US China policy came 30 years after the founding of the new China in 1949 by the Communist Party at the end of the Chinese civil war. In retreat, the Nationalist Party relocated its capital to Taipei Taiwan and the ROC government received steadfast US backing for being an anti-communist bastion and a critical link in the US defense in East Asia against the spread of communism during the cold war.  //Over the years, in spite of Taiwan’s transition from an authoritarian regime to a full-fledged democracy, China still considers Taiwan as a renegade providence that will eventually be conquered by force or diplomatically absorbed through unification—even if economic interdependence describes the status quo. Taiwan is a major trade partner to both US and China.  Over 95% of people in Taiwan are Han Chinese.

The call can also be seen as a risky bet by President Tsai whose leadership has been challenged by both domestic (see next page) and cross-strait issues, even if China already cut off its diplomatic channel with Taiwan since Tsai’s inauguration in May.  Tsai has been considered an insubordinate leader by the PRC because of her refusal to recognize the 1992 Consensus--which guides cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan under the “one country, two systems” principle but it also stipulates the PRC as the one and only China. 

For the Taiwanese/Chinese American community, some of them campaigned heavily for candidate Trump--even if the majority of the community voted for candidate Clinton, this act is seen as a silver lining for electing an outsider, a straight talker, and a pragmatic businessman into office who shows no patience for overtly complex and subtle diplomatic traditions as well as the intricacy of maintaining the norm of strategic ambiguity in the US-China-Taiwan triangle. It is mostly good news for the Taiwanese because of the elevated visibility of its sovereignty status and the increasing strategic importance of their homeland of Taiwan in US and international politics.  As former ambassador Jon Huntsman who studied in Taiwan said in a NYT article, Taiwan is an important leverage point in US-China relations for the new administration.