Trump-Tsai call continuation of improved U.S.-Taiwan ties: U.S. pundit

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's phone call with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (???) was a logical continuation of a slowly evolving process of improved U.S.-Taiwan relations, according to John Pomfret, a former China correspondent for The Washington Post.

The big concern, however, is that China will use the call as an excuse to further bully Taiwan and that Trump will stand by, Pomfret said in an article published Friday in The Post under the title of "Five myths about U.S.-China relations."

One of the myths is Trump's Taiwan phone call threatened the status quo, Pomfret wrote. When Trump took Taiwan's call, the U.S. foreign policy establishment had a minor nervous breakdown, while media outlets warned of "disarray" in U.S.-China relations and raised the specter of a "diplomatic disaster," he wrote.

However, the "status quo" between Taiwan and the United States has been evolving for decades. In exchange for Chinese promises to help ease the United States out of Vietnam and counter the Soviet Union, officials from the Nixon and Carter administrations promised China that America would walk away from Taiwan, allowing China to absorb the island of 23 million people, which Beijing views as a renegade province, according to Pomfret.

Since then, however, especially as U.S. presidents have come to understand that China's political system has not moved in a positive direction, successive administrations have worked to improve ties with Taiwan, he wrote.

Weapons sales to the island remain robust despite a promise to China in 1982 to slow them. Diplomatic contact has been upgraded. Washington now supports granting Taiwan observer status at a variety of international organizations. Most Taiwanese can come to the United States without a visa, Pomfret pointed out.

In that sense, Trump's call was a logical continuation of a slowly evolving process of improved relations. The big concern, however, is that China will use the call as an excuse to further bully Taiwan and that Trump will simply stand by, Pomfret wrote.

Another myth Pomfret indicated in the article is trade and engagement will set China free. This idea has been a foundational myth of America's engagement with China almost since President Richard Nixon went there in 1972 and it's been used to justify decades of interaction, Pomfret wrote.

So far, this epochal bet has been a bust, Pomfret argued. China's economy has become more open and personal freedom has expanded over the past few decades.

But China's one-party state represses dissent even more severely than it did 30 years ago in the run-up to the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square, he wrote.

Meanwhile, Western businesses remain banned from investing in a wide swath of China's economy, while Chinese firms can often invest in those sectors, including energy and telecommunications, overseas.

The other myths are the United States has tried to contain China's rise, China is killing the U.S. economy, and China's anti-American propaganda doesn't matter, Pomfret wrote.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel