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US foreign policy = + Add tomyFT Trump's dangerous provocation over Taiwan The president-elect should assume office before changing policy 6 FT View Tsai ing-wen, president of Taiwan, and Donald Trump, US president-elect © Gerty [e080 00 sve Most periods between the election of a new US president and the inauguration are relatively quict, with a bustle of appointment-related activity going on behind the scenes but a lack of hostages to fortune given in public ‘As president-elect, Donald Trump seems determined to up-end this tradition. If not necessarily settling on irrevocable policies that will bind him in office, he is setting out a stall that could radically change US strategy. It was the turn of Taiwan and its relationship to China on Friday. By taking a single phone call from Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, and referring to her by that title, Mr Trump threw 40 years of established practice into question. In fairness, he is right — if indeed this is his aim — to point out America’s contradictory attitude to the self-governed and democratic island. But by raising the issue without due consideration, Mr Trump has risked unnecessarily inflaming passions and, in the long term, may have made it harder to recast the relationship with China in a peacefal way. The US attitude to Taiwan since it was set by Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1979 could be described as constructive hypocrisy. America professes to support Taiwanese democracy and sells it arms to defend itself from its powerful neighbour, while at the same time adhering to a “one-China” policy and refusing to recognise Taiwan as an independent country. For a long while, this was a stable position that has kept the peace in a potentially inflammatory situation. But Beijing’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, particularly in the South China Sea, has made it more unstable. The US has looked ever more passive in the region and the timidity of its approach may have emboldened China. The Obama administration reacted to China’s building of artificial islands and militarisation of the South China Sea by sailing some ships and flying a few jets through the region in “freedom of navigation” exercises. China shrugged off these actions and carried on building military bases in the disputed waters. Beijing's initial response was to downplay news of the phone call. Unless Mr Trump doubles down on the provocation, China may simply bide its time and wait for him to enter the Oval Office, assuming this is the action of someone who has not had time to consider the issues at length. But it could also decide not to take such a sanguine view, and instead retaliate — if not directly on the Taiwan issue, perhaps with regard to other sensitive areas of US foreign policy in east Asia. Despite Mr Trump's insistence that the Taiwanese president had called him, not the other way round, the conversation apparently has been in the planning among Mr Trump’s staff. It may represent a newly hawkish attitude to China, rather than simple inexperience. Mr ‘Trump should wait until he has had a chance to consult across government before setting off in a radically different direction with regard to one of America’s most important and most delicate foreign policy relationships. With China throwing its weight around in the region, there is a good case for reviewing whether deliberate ambiguity can remain a sustainable US policy towards Taiwan. But provocative phone calls and combative tweets from a president-elect are emphatically not the way to proceed. Diplomacy is best conducted behind closed doors, and face to face, by an administration in power. Mr Trump should pause before setting his country on a confrontational path that may prove counter-productive. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2076. Alll rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web, 9e008 Fico Bah save