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Trump risks antagonizing China by Taiwan call
03:30 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

US President-elect Donald Trump had a phone call with Taiwan's president Friday

China views Taiwan as a renegade province and the call went against usual US protocols

CNN  — 

It’s weeks before the United States’ next president takes office, but already Donald Trump is raising eyebrows among China-watchers after his phone call with Taiwan’s president.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province and since 1979 the US has acknowledged Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, with US-China relations governed by a set of protocols known as the One China Policy.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday night published a statement about the 10-minute phone call, in which the two shared views on policies.

Ties with Taiwan

China’s state-run CCTV quickly issued a statement following the call saying the President-elect had made “an unprecedented break with the One-China Policy and accepted US-Mainland protocol.”

Trump – who has previously vowed to take a tough line towards Beijing – stressed that Taipei had initiated the call.

“The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” he tweeted.

Policy change?

Zhang Baohui, a political science professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said the tweets made it clear that Tsai had called Trump.

“If Trump had called Tsai then it would be very significant but if she called him, it may not suggest a wholesale policy change. China’s reaction so far has been calm and muted. It has not blamed Trump but singled out Taiwan.”

Michael Pillsbury, a China adviser to Trump during the campaign who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Obama, said Trump’s call was like many of the dozens he had made and taken since Election Day with world leaders.

“It shouldn’t be seen as a departure from norms,” Pillsbury said. “We should have warmer ties with Taiwan. And it can be done without alienating Beijing. Indeed over the last decade, Taipei has pursued closer relations with the mainland. We too can do both. The zero sum mentality is an old way of thinking.”

Damaging breach in protocol?