No need to over-interpret Trump's phone call with Tsai

China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-12-05 07:41

Friday's phone call between Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen and US President-elect Donald Trump, which broke nearly four decades of US diplomatic practice, came as a bolt out of the blue. Because of that, it has been given a significance it doesn't deserve by some.

It exposed nothing but the inexperience Trump and his transition team have in dealing with foreign affairs. The action was due to a lack of a proper understanding of the sensitive issues in Sino-US relations and cross-Straits ties, the significance of which Trump and his team will quickly have to recognize and cautiously and properly address after they take over the reins in January.

As the next US president, Trump will shoulder the responsibility to safeguard the interests of his country, which includes maintaining a healthy relationship with China. To do that, he cannot afford to damage the one-China policy, which serves as the political foundation for bilateral ties and has been maintained by every US administration since 1979. Given the strong economic and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries at present, there is no reason for the incoming Trump administration to break away from it.

For Tsai, the phone call, a "petty gambit" as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called it, achieves nothing substantial, only pride in making what is an illusionary "groundbreaking move", and temporarily diverting public attention on the island away from her bad performance.

However, it does nothing to change the cold reality of her record low approval rating and the island's economic woes.

It would be a mistake for Tsai and her party to over-interpret the significance of the call and believe it can induce a change in the US' long-standing recognition of the one-China policy. It simply reflects the need for Trump to quickly find his feet in his new role.

Actually, after reports of the phone call emerged, Ned Price, the White House National Security Council spokesman, said on Friday evening that Washington remains firmly committed to the one-China policy, which has been the bedrock for Sino-US ties, through the years of engagement.

Tsai should know the fundamental interests of the US lies in peaceful and stable cross-Straits ties and any attempt to win US support for the "independence" push of her Democratic Progressive Party will fail. No matter how she tries to stir up tensions in cross-Straits relations, her attempts will ultimately backfire, as demonstrated by her predecessor Chen Shui-bian between 2000 and 2008.

(China Daily USA 12/05/2016 page11)

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