Tags: Trump | Taiwan | China | Nixon

Trump's Call With Taiwan a Clear Shot to China

Image: Trump's Call With Taiwan a Clear Shot to China

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Monday, 05 Dec 2016 11:35 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The stunning news Friday that President-elect Donald Trump took a call from the president of Taiwan sent a strong signal to both the People’s Republic of China and the world.

As the first U.S. official (albeit one that has not yet taken office) to have contact with the government in Taipei, Trump did nothing short of make history. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer spoke for officials of several administrations when he told reporters he was forbidden to say the word “Taiwan” while working for George W. Bush.

What if anything will change as a result of the Trump exchange with President T’sai Ing-Wen is uncertain at this point.

But it may well be that Trump, in sending a signal that he cares about Taiwan and its 17 million people, may be going back to where Richard Nixon left off in the late 1970s. As much as Nixon is known as the father of the “open door” to China, he also had strong feelings about maintaining U.S. ties to Taiwan.

On Friday, Dec.15, 1978, Nixon received a call from a friend informing him that President Jimmy Carter would formally recognize the PRC as the sole government of China and break U.S. diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

“You know, that means not only cutting off recognition of Taiwan,” Nixon replied to his friend, “It means abrogating the Mutual Defense Treaty with them that we’ve had since — since I was vice president. [Secretary of State] John Foster Dulles signed it for [President Eisenhower] in ’54.”

Carter’s anticipated decision, Nixon said, “also means all U.S. troops have to leave Taiwan. That’s what they told me we had to do when I went to Peking in ’72. They insisted on those things. That’s what they said I had to do if I wanted diplomatic relations. No way! Jerry [President Gerald R. Ford] was told the same thing after he became president when he went to China in ’75. No way from him, too.” (A transcript of this conversation comes from the book “Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy,” by former Nixon White House aide Bruce Herschensohn).

In a subsequent letter to Carter five days later, Nixon elaborated on his concerns over Taiwan and particularly expressed concern that “this is one of those critical times when you cannot afford any moves which justifiably or not are considered soft or weak, vis-à-vis the communist powers.”

As to the effect of Carter’s decision on the international scene, Nixon prophetically warned: “the fallout on future foreign and defense policy battles you will have to fight will make the Panama Canal controversy look like a Sunday school picnic in comparison.”

It may that Trump is understanding what Nixon meant, 48 years later.

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John-Gizzi
The stunning news Friday that President-elect Donald Trump took a call from the president of Taiwan sent a strong signal to both the People’s Republic of China and the world.
Trump, Taiwan, China, Nixon
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2016-35-05
Monday, 05 Dec 2016 11:35 AM
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