This Trump call to the President of Taiwan is as dangerous as it sounds. What makes it even crazier is that we don’t really know if this is a considered and deliberate provocation, an accident because Trump doesn’t even know the diplomatic protocol on this or just something some China hawk aide talked him into while he was eating a Taco salad.
I suspect there’s an element of each in play.
There’s already been chatter about John Bolton, a hardcore China hawk, visiting with Trump today. Was that connected with this? Apparently Reince Priebus is also very close to Taipei, something the mainland press had already commented on with some consternation. Frankly, I had no idea that Priebus had anything but generic foreign policy views about anything.
But here’s the other thing in the mix. Before this happened there was already news in the Taiwanese press that Trump and his children are in talks to build a series of luxury resorts and hotels in Taiwan. (The link is to an English language discussion in Shanghaiist since the originals are in Chinese.) The One China Policy is a complex and not entirely logical way that all sides tacitly agree to keep kicking the status of Taiwan can down the road and into the future forever.
I’ve always been highly suspicious of the China hawks who think we have any interest in doing more than maintaining the status quo between the mainland and Taipei – no disruptions, changes or provocations on either side. Remember, this is a question that has been played out through aggressive war games in the Taiwan Strait as recently as twenty years ago. But even if you buy into the aggressively pro-Taipei argument, this is not the way to change the policy. You don’t do it with a phone call no one even entirely knows the meaning of. And you certainly don’t do it before you’re even President. We don’t even know how much this is genuine hawkishness or tied to one of his wastrel son’s new building projects.
China is a big, big country. It has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. This is no joke.